“The first duty of love is to listen.” Paul Tillich
Here we are on the verge of the Thanksgiving holiday and it promises to be anything but ordinary. For many we will not be gathering in person for the traditional dinner and fellowship, perhaps you will gather via zoom or even a phone call. Whatever way you can safely gather with your loved ones, I invite you to listen. Listen intently to what each family or friend is saying. Check in with your loved ones to see how they are managing during the pandemic. Check in and listen carefully, do they need anything?
So often I think we struggle to really listen to each other. Sometimes we think we know what will come next and sometimes we are absolutely right and other times we are surprised. I think the art of truly listening to each other has been lost in our fast paced, on the move every second of every hour society in which we live. I was reminded the other day, that it is hard to hate someone when you know their story.
How often do we really listen to someone when they are speaking? How often do we take the time to listen to a person’s story when we encounter them? How many times have we been frustrated with a stranger’s actions and assumed the worst? How many times have we assumed things about a person based on physical looks or actions?
Margaret Wheatley in her book, A Simpler Way, tells a story about a teacher and a student. Often, the student was disruptive in class and the teacher decided to sit and listen to the student’s story. She did not give advice or try to fix the problems; she just sat by the student and listened. As he was talking, the student was working out his life and what he really needed was to be heard. The teacher gave the student an incredible gift, she listened. It really is hard to hate someone when you know their story.
I invite you as you gather with loved ones, whether in person or using technology, listen. Really listen to what they are saying. Really listen to their story. And then continue the act of listening with those you do not know. People you encounter every day or just randomly. Get in the habit of listening to people’s stories. Perhaps, too, you can share your story..
My prayer for each of us this week is that we would really listen to each other. That we would listen to the strangers we meet along our journey this week. That we would develop our listening skills. For in learning each other’s stories we grow a community of love and acceptance. It is truly hard to hate someone when you know their story.