just listen

he was so tiny and full of energy, i imagine gravity would be of no consequence to him if tied to a balloon. not that gravity really seemed to bother him much now. he bounced eagerly from one step to the next, thoughts spilling out of his mouth just as quickly as they were flooding into his 5 year old mind. at this age, most children are easily distracted... but not as easy to distract.

his mother was attempting to engage in "adult" conversation with a friend she obviously hadn't seen in awhile. the rest of us were simply there to support our friends/family members in a game of indoor soccer. i was alone, of course, as usual. i came to watch my boyfriend play, desperately trying to follow along with the flow of a game i'm still shockingly unfamiliar with.

although i was intent on "learning through viewing" by focusing my attention on the constant flow of motion on the other side of the plexiglass wall, i could not help but notice the smaller ball of motion to my left. i smiled at him and complimented his teddy bear backpack, which he proceeded to toss up in the air over and over again, never quite finding his body in the right place to catch it when it landed.

this must have reminded him of something important, because he began fervently tugging on his mother's pant leg in an attempt to recenter her attention. she was mid-conversation with her friend and brushed him off, albeit lovingly. the more he pestered, the more insistent she was on continuing her conversation, obviously using this moment as an opportunity to teach her son some manners.

he wasn't buying it.

he tugged and tugged, desperate for her to listen. he started the same sentence over and over again, hoping that at least one time she'd turn her head towards his little face and allow him to continue. i don't judge her for not dropping everything for her son. i've done similar things for my students. at some point or another, they need to learn that it is not okay to interrupt others.

but i couldn't help it... he just looked so eager to share, i thought he might burst... so i indulged him.

"I'm listening"

There are very few things in life as frustrating as attempting to share something with someone who is not listening to you. This happens, of course, all the time. With my students, my mother, my boyfriend, guests who come into Red Robin, the gas station attendant, etc. While I know that (most of) these people never mean to ignore me or make me feel insignificant, I still can't help feeling a bit stung every time I realize my words aren't being heard like I had hoped.

None of this is to say I'm not guilty of it myself. Oh no, I've found myself spacing out plenty of times while others are speaking - even those whom I love the very most. It's never intentional and I nearly always own up to my mistake, but I know I can't erase the sense of frustration that comes from being ignored.

On a different note, however, there are very few things in life as rewarding as sharing your story with a captive audience. Having been on the receiving end of such tender attention, I can vouch for its power: often times, simply knowing someone is listening is all it takes to make your story come alive.

Just listen.

And even more powerful is finding someone who not only listens to your words, but also to your heart. I have been so blessed with two women in particular in my life who consistently listen, no matter what I have to say. Thank you.

Just listen.

You may not always have the perfect words to say to solve someone's hurting, answer their questions, encourage, or inspire... but you will always have the ears (and the heart) to listen.

Just listen.

You have no clue the effect it might have on someone.


e.brown said…
Beautifully spoken :)
Vanessa's Dad said…
One of the great NEEDS of people is to be "known"... "understood". That can only happen if we listen.

Poignant blog on relationships, big ones and small ones.

"A person's a person, no matter how small."

Dr. Seuss, "Horton Hears a Who"
And with that I will stop everything...sit on the floor, look my daughter in the eyes and listen.