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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Learn to listen to the stories of others

This and That By Avis Anderson

The most important gift we can give someone is to listen to their story. As human beings we need to know there is someone who will hear what is roiling around in my brain and more necessary, in my heart.

Impatience grows as old people tell the same stories over and over again. We say, “dementia”, “senile.” I once read an article that said to tell the stories of our lives repeatedly becomes an affirmation of who we are. As we age and lose friends and spouse and family and all those who knew us ‘when’, we must tell our stories to help ourselves as well as others know that once we had direction and purpose. Our stories become more important the older we grow. We are grounded by our stories. Those who listen to the elder stories gain a deeper understanding of what it means to grow and not diminish with the years.

Children need to know someone is listening. To busy adults their little fears are irrational and we brush them off. “Go out and play.” Their stories, always holding a germ of truth, must be sifted through so we can help these small ones find their way into lives that will listen to others as they have been heard.

The teen years can often be a time when the stories stop because the perception is the teens have nothing worth listening to and no one has the time to listen. These are the times when we must work harder to draw out the stories. For teens it is a time of darkness and confusion. It is a time when a steady hand on their shoulder and someone to listen, listen, listen without interruption is the rudder for the journey.

I was going through a time of turmoil many years ago. I remember so well a friend who just listened to me pour out what was on my heart. By her listening, I heard myself for the first time. I listened to what I was saying because her silence was an invitation into myself. Her listening was a great gift. 

No one has to fix it for me. Nor do I need to fix it for someone else. The healing comes in the willingness to share a space, a moment together and pour out what lives in the deepest heart of me.

One author has written “. . . perhaps words of truth reach us best through the heart, and stories and songs that are the language of the heart.” And another has said, “The shortest distance between a human being and Truth is a story.”

May it always be so. 

Avis Anderson is a retired pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Glendive. Her online blog can be found at  www.prairienewdays.com.

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