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Chatterbox: Listening to hear


It seems that when we pause to see the world in danger, anywhere, most of us feel at least a pinch guilty about any blessings or good fortune we may have.
Helping in whatever way we can is good, and never abandoning optimism and light is imperative. This thought brought to my mind a column from the past.
In that column from 2004, we talked about just listening. It was written when fewer than seven out of 10 people around the world, and even fewer teens, had cell phones. It was written before anyone even imagined a gadget such as today’s hand-held, personal computer/diary/telephone/etcetera that we still simply call our phone. In that column from 2004, we talked about just listening … the art and beauty of listening.
Listening was once part of good breeding and a mandatory social, if not survival, skill of life. Today, even without anyone in the crowd monopolizing the conversation, listening is a dying art; its demise is enhanced by self-involvement, time and that personal computer we mentioned a moment ago.
Chatterbox has often discussed the interference that cell phones present to the normal processes of life on the daily. Mothers pushing babies on a spring walk, not talking about, or pointing out, the birds or flowers to their infant or toddler, but strolling with their eyes and one hand glued to their cell phone instead. We’ve talked about various interrupted infant developments, strangers chatting on a train, pedtextrian accidents, and numerous types of children’s developmental, personal and social disruptions created by the addiction to cell phones. All that interference is also sending our art of listening the way of the minuet.
That column from Dec. 9, 2004 talked about my conversation with an old friend while he was doing work on our lengthy renovation in 2003. “One day he just happened to mention that he was headed out to go fly fishing. I was quite surprised. I knew very little about that sport past the image we all conjure when the topic is mentioned … He began to exude about the sport …”

Listening is a funny prospect. For the most part, most of us feel that our obligation to show we are listening is to respond, but when a person is sharing a passion for something, especially something we know little about, listening is our delight and sharing is theirs.
“The stunning process that listening becomes when we give ourselves permission to say nothing and just let someone else share openly … without hesitation or self-consciousness, is a revelation … the gifts we are given … in that exchange of information … are priceless. And someone who is filled with a passion is the most engaging resource one can have.
“When we share with someone else that which excites him [or her], we have been invited into personal space with the hope that what he [she] loves, we will enjoy hearing about, learning about, or perhaps, learn to love as well.”
There’s a cute movie called “Fever Pitch” in which a young girl falls in love with a Boston Red Sox fan (though, in this case the word “fan” doesn’t begin to describe this guy). She soon embraces the game, as people often adopt the passion of the person they love. It’s not just a way to show love but a way to bond; there’s something one person can teach to another, resulting in something they can share. Most Chattereaders know one of my husband’s passions, developed later in life, is baseball. I, now, also enjoy this game of beauty and sport with a passion too. He is still far more informed than I, and I enjoy listening as I learn by seeing it through his eyes.
These are the types of riches we can gain from simply giving ourselves permission to just listen while we allow someone else to share. We’ll realize being “part of someone else’s exuberance about something is being privy to who that person really is. So rarely nowadays, at the speed of life at which we live, do we have the chance to really learn who our friends profoundly are … or who our family members have become …”
Each of us has a passion; some of us have several. Sharing our passion with someone else, when they are absorbed and enjoying our lesson to them is only one of the great perks of a good listen. The other part, of course, is that which we gain when we do our part on the other side of that conversation.