Did you hear about the fellow who was putting in a new driveway? He was just finishing up the top layer, smoothing it out, when a little child, chasing a ball, runs right across the newly laid cement, leaving his footprints. The man starts cussing at the little child, calling him all sorts of names.
A neighbor, overhearing this, says, “Hey, Guy, I thought you liked kids.”
And the man responds. “I like kids in the abstract, not in the concrete.”
I’d like to share a story I recently came across. Students at an elementary school were asked to write an essay about what they would like God to do for them. At the end of the day, while grading the essays, a teacher read one that made her very emotional.
Her husband, who had just walked in, saw her crying and asked her "What happened?" She answered, "Read this. It is one of my school's students' essays."
"Oh God, tonight I ask you something very special. Make me into a television set. I want to take its place and live like the TV in my house.
Have my own special place, and have my family around me. To be taken seriously when I talk. I want to be the center of attention and be heard without interruptions or questions.
I want to receive the same special care as the TV set receives even when it is not working. Have the company of my dad when he arrives home from work, even when he is tired. And I want my mom to want me when she is sad and upset, instead of ignoring me. And I want my brothers to fight to be with me.
I want to feel that family just leaves everything aside, every now and then, just to spend some time with me. And last but not least, ensure that I can make them all happy and entertain them. Lord, I don't ask you for much. I just want to live like a TV."
At that moment the husband said, "Poor kid. What horrible parents!"
The wife looked up at him and said, "That essay is our son's!" (Story found at bizmove.com)
What did Jesus tell us in today’s gospel? “Love one another, as I have loved you.” We’ve heard that so often, And we’ve heard homilies on love so often. How can those words be made practical?
One of the most practical statements I know is by a theologian named Paul Tillich. He said, “The first duty of love is to listen.” That’s very practical. It is also very difficult. Our little story about the boy wanting to be a TV is not too far off. Maybe you can sometimes put yourself in his place and wish you received all the attention that a TV receives.
Yes, listening to another is one of the most difficult of human tasks. One problem is that there is so much outer noise all around us. Our lives are filled with sounds that annoy and distract.
We hear traffic, sirens, leaf blowers, and lawn mowers. There is the blare of TV’s, CD’s, PC’s, iPods, cell phones, and all sorts of portable devices. We are invaded with electronic squawks, alarms, and ring tones. The invasions continue with the loud, discourteous cell phone conversations.
Then there is inner noise, what I call the obstacles of the heart:
Unjust anger is an inner noise.
Gossip is a clamor.
Lies make a din.
Prejudice is a loud racket.
Unforgiveness is a disturbing clatter.
And our own critical tongue can make the most noise.
To truly listen takes discipline and hard work. The discipline involves very limited use of the word “I." There is a real “death to self” in listening. We have to put aside our need to talk. We have to choose not to interrupt, argue or compete for attention. We have to be careful not to jump in, assuming we know what the other is thinking before he or she tells us. We have to be patient because some people speak in circles, and it takes a while before they express themselves clearly.
The hard work involves giving the other person our full and complete attention. This means staying alert.
This means listening with our ears and hearing every word.
It means listening with our eyes and catching the non-verbal communication signals the other is employing.
It means listening with our emotional sensors, picking up the depth of feeling being conveyed.
It means listening with our intelligence,(to the connotations and denotations of expressions,) striving to grasp the meaning of the other’s words, actions, and emotions.
It means listening with our heart, not judging, but being aware of the importance of who the other is.
“The first duty of love is to listen.” There is much love in the sentence, “Tell me more.” It is love that prompts us to put down the newspaper or cell phone and look the other in the eye. It is love that prompts us to communicate by our demeanor that we consider him or her worth listening to.
Richard Moss said, “The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.”
It takes attention and skill to paraphrase what another has said. It takes effort to relay back to them what we think we heard.) Accurate feedback, accompanied by appropriate nods, quizzical looks, and timely questions are the tools of attentive conversation. We will know we have succeeded in the art of listening when the other proclaims, “Oh, thank goodness, you understand!”
Finally, love seeks to release the potential in others. That’s what parents and teachers are all about, releasing the potential in their children. Psychologist Carl Rogers said, “Listening is the most powerful force we know for releasing potential in others. Real communication occurs when we listen with understanding—to see the idea and attitude from the other person’s point of view, to sense how it feels to them, to achieve their frame of reference in regard to the thing they are talking about.”
Want to do something God does? In Psalm 149 we read, “God takes delight in his people.”
We too will take delight in God’s people, especially his children, -- if we make the loving effort to listen.
If I had my child to raise over again
If I had my child to raise over again, I’d finger paint more and point the finger less.
I’d do less correcting, and more connecting.
I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I would care to know less, and know to care more.
I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.
I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more field and gaze at more stars.
I’d do more hugging and less tugging.
I would be firm less often, and affirm much more.
I’d build self esteem first, and the house second.
I’d teach less about the love of power,
and more about the power of love.
--- Diane Loomans