I have devoted much of my professional life to listening to the problems, concerns, and secrets of others. It has been my honor. Listening can be exhausting work. I think all of us are called to listen at different times. The difference in listening as a profession and listening as an avocation may well be how much the listener can stand! Most of us like to think that we listen effectively, but the amount of conflict on this earth seems to be a valid means with which to dispute this.
Bill Rose, the gentleman in the accompanying photo, was a neighbor, dear friend, and an avid listener. Our “Starbucks Moments” gave me much in which to look forward. Was Bill a “professional listener?” No. Was he a kind soul with my best interest at heart? Absolutely. Good listening requires a focus, symbolized by Bill’s concentration on the subject of his camera lens in the picture. Bill and I shared a love for my hometown, Charlotte, and we would sit with our java and hammer the world’s problems on the battlefields of Dilworth, Sedgefield, or Cotswold in Charlotte. Can you tell that we solved them all? Bill’s gift to me was the gift of presence. Bill was called to listen (at least to me), and I miss him.
Bill and I spent many hours recalling Charlotte’s past. Who had the best fries, Zack’s or South 21? Which mall: Charlottetown, Eastland, or SouthPark? Cotswold Shopping Center, Eastway Shopping Center, or Park Road Shopping Center? We reminisced about Bailey’s Cafeteria in Cotswold, The Barclay Cafeteria in Amity Gardens, the S&W Cafeterias, Green’s Lunch, Price’s Chicken Coop, the Capri Theatre (my first job), Charlottetown Cinema, the Manor Theatre, and so on. We had fun, responsive conversations because we listened to each other.
Do you have someone who listens to you, someone that has your best interest at heart? That, incidentally, would be someone who listens without interruption or judgment. It really isn’t helpful for most of us to receive unsolicited, highly-emotive advice from “friends” or family. We do better, they do better (whether they are aware of it or not), and the relationship fares better when we listen with the attention due the other, absent a need for corrections or evaluation.
Are we listening? How can we do better?