Excuse Me –
Someone asked me today; “Who’s your favorite killer?” I did a double take and asked in return; “My favorite what?” “Color,’ came the response, ‘favorite color?” “Oh!, blue,” I said. I was told I needed to work on my Tennessean listening skills.
It was a good laugh at my expense and a good reminder about listening. Each of us come from a unique background. We often forget that when we are speaking and listening to someone. People speak using words we don’t use, wouldn’t use, aren’t sure how to use. Folks speak with biases, colored by experiences, influenced by generational cycles of positive and negative cultural, religious and familial understandings.
This is why it is so important to listen with our whole being, not casually while we mess with our phones, distract ourselves with “more important” things or not honor the person who is speaking with mindfulness and focus.
Listening is a sacred gift we can give one another.
It’s The Thought –
I sat with one of my regulars for a session yesterday. We made small talk at first asking each other about what’s happened in the last week between appointments. He told me about his weekend and I mentioned the rain and how this negatively impacted my work on the front porch extension. As I said this his eyes lit up and he said; “That reminds me!” and he put his hand in his pocket and brought out an object and slid it across the table.
He continued; “I know you don’t charge for these sessions but I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you helping me.” I looked down and it was a gift card for a local home improvement store. I smiled at his graciousness and then slid the card back to him and replied apologetically; “I’m sorry. I can’t accept this gift. We are a non-profit and can’t accept personal payment of any kind but I appreciate your generosity and the thought behind the gift means a great deal to me.” Even as I think about his desire to tangibly say; “Thank you” it brings a big smile to my face.
I have no idea how much the gift card was for and it doesn’t matter. What matters is his appreciation for the times we’ve sat together and worked through some tough issues to help him become the best man he can be for himself and his family. The old adage; “It’s the thought behind the gift that counts” is true and was a wonderful gift that I will value for a long time.
dandelion, sitting on a hill
rooted, grounded, in place, until
a mighty force arose and lifted
carried your essence far from home
floating in all directions at once
never letting you settle
dropping and raising
bouncing between stillness and gales
yet in the chaos, swirling turmoil
your beauty decorated the wind
the gift of recognized breezes
making that which could not be seen
now traced over meadows, fields, hills and valley
where you take root again is unknown
until then your untamed spirit
alights upon my shoulder for a glimpse
of what it means to be unleashed
Yesterday, during worship service, a young woman in another section and a few rows up, began having a coughing fit. She tried to stifle the sudden, sharp expelling of air from her lungs but her body convulsed with each suppression.
I’ve been there. Sometimes those coughing fits come on so quickly and violently you’re at a loss at what to do. You don’t want to cause a scene, disturb everyone by getting up and excusing yourself but you also don’t want to continue being a major distraction. I watched her weighing the options when the small, frail hand of an elderly lady reached across the aisle and handed her a piece of candy. It wasn’t done in an exasperated thrust or with the roll of an eye or an exaggerated sigh. She gently and surreptitiously extended the soothing lozenge, they exchanged smiles and the young woman accepted the gift. A simple act and beautiful acceptance.
I’ve thought about this scene several times since yesterday. Too often, those in need are embarrassed, shamed, forced to find help, go through great lengths and navigate many obstacles to find assistance. Folks with hurts, habits, hangups and shortcomings are looked down upon, cause frustration for “those who have it all together,” know how to behave, can take care of themselves. The “haves” begrudgingly give to the “have-nots” and make sure many are aware of their feigned and forced magnanimity.
To be aware of the need of others, to give secretly, to aid not for recognition or reimbursement but because we can is true generosity wrapped in lavish grace.