Sunday, July 14, 2013

Words To Say ...

There is a woman who stands outside the Post Office every day, collecting money for the Royal Oak Animal Shelter. Rain, Sun, Snow ... doesn't matter. She's there. She has something she believes in and stands outside sharing her mission with anyone who cares to listen. Or donate.

I walk by her a lot as I travel around Royal Oak for work or to yoga or to shop or eat or whatever. I smile at her. I exchange a few words. I don't necessarily donate money as I walk by every time, but I do make eye contact and speak. I don’t even know her name. But I recognize that she has something to say as she stands there and I want to let her know I honor her stance.

The other day, I attended a church service led by a dear friend of mine who is now a retired minister. He has been and will always be a mentor of mine. I would sit at his feet anytime I could and listen to him preach. I would gladly debate, discuss, and exchange perspectives ... learning along the way. During the church service ... it was a Methodist service by the way ... he mentioned both Buddism and Judaism, honoring the words those religions have to say in his own message. He has always had an amazing, reflective and open mind. He has always had words to say that are worth hearing.

Many of us have words to say. I choose to say them on "Jenni's Corner." Like the girl in Beautiful Creatures, I see words all around me. Poems. Stories. Quotes. Ideas. They have power and energy to connect or disconnect. No ... that isn’t exactly true. The words don't have the power. The way people hear and interpret and respond to the words GIVES them power. I know many people who post blogs or commentary on Facebook or other Social Media. Sometimes, their words result in people removing themselves from their mailing lists or un-friending them. Such a strange concept. But it’s just an example of the Power of Words.

Like the woman outside the Royal Oak Post Office, these are just people who believe in stuff and note their thoughts in print or by taking a stance outside a building, collecting money or raising awareness. Okay, there are some who use words aggressively and get “in my face.” Not such a big fan of those. I was always told you catch more flies with honey than vinegar and choose a gentler way to express my thoughts. But, they have words to say too. I just might opt to steer a little clear of them.

But then, with all the words flowing, do we listen? I’ve read that "we have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.” (Never knew that is an actual statement made by Diogenes Laertius ... just thought it was a saying my mom used with me.) But, if I’m honest, I recognize that I’m much better at speaking than hearing. The other day I was hanging out with a friend. He was speaking. Before I knew it, I cut him off. He smiled politely, nodded and listened. Truly listened. I could see in his eyes that he was truly focused on my words and that gave me pause … That discovery made me look a little closer at myself. I need to become a better listener.

If people have words to say, they deserve to be heard. Not cut off or interrupted. Not redirected. Not brushed aside or deleted. Not abused for the difference of their opinion. We won’t always agree. Debates may ensue. But listening to each other shows a respect that seems to be neglected as we bash people or delete Facebook comments that conflict with our own.

Ernest Hemingway stated “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” Such an interesting and sad thought. Better still is Stephen Covey’s observation that “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” 

Lauren Oliver, in her book Delirium, wrote “I've learned to get really good at this - say one thing when I'm thinking about something else, act like I'm listening when I'm not, pretend to be calm and happy when I'm really freaking out. It's one of the skills you perfect as you get older.”  

I can do that. Smile and be thinking something else. Talking on the phone and typing on my computer. But then I’m not really present for the other person. I’m not honoring the words they have to say.  If I want people to honor mine, the least I can do is honor what they put out there. And, I kinda wanna do better than just phone it in.

I guess I’m discovering that I selected the people who surround me for the intriguing people they are … for the uniqueness they offer whether I agree with everything they say, believe in or do or only a little bit of it. I assume that by honoring their thoughts and listening to what they have to say that I might become wiser through that experience.  Listening is an attitude that comes from the heart … an authentic desire to share with another human being.

So Yes, I have Words To Say … but I want to hear the Words You Have To Say, too.

So ………….. ?????

                                                                                                                        -- Jenni