I was walking out of the store, cradling my drink and trying to keep from spilling it as I shoved my wallet back into my purse.
A group of siblings had just reached the entrance as I opened the first set of doors. Their mother trailed a few feet behind. I held the heavy door open so the kids wouldn't have to struggle with it.
Four little girls skipped in ahead of their brother - he couldn't have been older than five. The little boy politely held the outer door open for his mother. He smiled up at her earnestly as she thanked him. I held the other door open for him, expecting him to hurry through behind his mom.
He waited. I waited.
I looked at him. He looked at me.
For a few seconds we both stood there, still holding the doors for each other.
"Go ahead," I encouraged. "It's okay--"
He cut me off with a shake of his head and a shy smile.
"Nope," he said, opening the door a little wider.
He was determined.
I grinned, unable to hide my pride and delight in the little gentleman. This child was actually going to hold the door for me. Already a sweet gentleman at such a young age.
I thanked him on my way out. He gave me a high five.
Here's to the hardworking moms who teach their sons kindness, respect, and courtesy.
Consider the definitions of two elementary words: listening and hearing. To hear is defined as “to perceive by ear.” To listen is described as “to concentrate on hearing.”
Our culture today widely accepts hearing and listening to be interchangeable, one and the same. Unfortunately, we are disregarding the difference between the words and the fact that we, as humans, are programmed with an exigent need to communicate. Without effective listening skills, we cannot effectively communicate, and without effective communication we cannot effectively build natural human relationships. We are slowly but most definitely losing the ability to shape and support those bonds.
How often do we catch ourselves merely “hearing” what others are trying to say? How often do we actually remember the words spoken? Listening has an influence in every aspect of our life; work, school, home, and in our social lives. Just hearing can only get us so far. Listening provides us with necessary knowledge as well as testifies that you can actually listen. When we practice convincing and direct listening, we are proving to others that yes, we care, and yes, we have the desire to understand what they are sharing.
Catching and understanding the difference between hearing and listening is such a crucial quality. So many times I have tried communicating a point to someone who just couldn’t listen. They didn’t know how. The thought briefly wisped through their mind and was lost in the void. I felt unimportant and neglected. The listener (or “hearer”) couldn’t even remember half the things I said, most of which were actually important to me. This revelation broke my confidence; I felt as if my opinions didn’t matter. Whether the topic is more trivial like peanut butter cookies (and how I truly don’t like peanut butter) or actually a thought worth knowing, I’m constantly finding myself in “bad listener” situations.
What if we treated our managers and coworkers with such disrespect? What about our spouses or children? Our friends and neighbors? Obviously the outcome wouldn’t be too positive. By failing to communicate correctly we bar ourselves from keeping close those who are important to us. People begin to mistrust us and feel that their thoughts and words are not important enough to be given our attention. It takes a shot at their confidence, making them even less likely to trust you with their information.
Every person communicates differently. Sometimes we really are listening but don’t seem to be paying attention. My father, who has been struggling with hearing problems all his life, has to physically and visually show that he is listening. We’re never quite sure if he actually heard us or not until he’s able to prove it. By establishing a habit of making eye contact, showing a reaction in his expressions, and responding to comments, he has proven himself as effective listener. If we couldn’t see his response we would assume he was just hearing, or wonder if he was even hearing at all.
From experiences like these, we see that effective communication and listening relies on more than just hearing. Listening requires concentration. Concentrating on what you’re hearing can include making direct eye contact, acknowledging the speaker with your facial expressions and responses, not interrupting, and showing the actual desire to hear what the speaker has to say by remembering it in the future. Ascertain that you actually are understanding and processing the content. In many cases people forget these simple qualities of listening and revert back to the norm of “hearing” instead.
There is nothing to be gained by simply hearing except an appreciation of the sound of a rainstorm and fear of the rumbling thunder. Listening – real, genuine listening – brings knowledge, trust, success, and confidence. We would do well to understand the difference.
I heard the sickening crunch of metal on metal. I saw the gray-blue hatchback spinning uncontrollably, too fast...right toward the driver's side of my Passat.
I was trapped. There was no time. I was paralyzed. I shut my eyes, held my breath, and braced myself as shards of glass rained on my windshield. The seconds ticked by. I asked God to watch over my family. To keep my sister safe. To forgive me my sins. I hoped that I wasn't too late. I thought about my life. My choices. My mistakes. I thought about him. Her. Them.
The sound of screeching tires interrupted my prayer but was soon drowned out by the dull throb of my heartbeat. Thuh-bum. Thuh-bum. Thuh-bum. It echoed in my head.
I squeezed my eyes tight and gripped the steering wheel. Every muscle in my body tensed, just waiting for the impact.
My eyes opened. Bits of glass covered my car. Chunks of metal settled across the intersection. I looked over my shoulder. The totaled Subaru sat ten feet away. Behind me.
I should have died. It was coming straight for me. Considering its direction and speed, there was no way the car should have not hit me. I was right in the line of fire. I saw it. I know.
I believe in miracles. I believe in prayer. I believe in angels. I believe in God.
My original plan for this weekend was to go home and spend some time with family and friends. You know, seeing as Monday is a holiday and all.
(No work, no school!)
But I might have just come up with a different idea.
(Different. Not better. Different idea, same greatness.)
As in, going out and actually do something.
As in, I'm going to be taking myself on a date.
(On the way to visit family and friends, of course.)
I've done this a few times in the past, but it's definitely been a too long since my last "self date".
How nice it will be to take myself and a book to a local coffee shop, curl up on an old, comfy ripped couch with a tall hot cocoa, and just...relax. I'll keep my headphones in to show that I'm just here for myself. Don't try socializing with me.
Or maybe I'll do something else. Local bands playing live shows. I support local music. I love stuff like that. Jamming to some new tunes while swaying to the beat. With a tall hot cocoa, of course.
I might not be in that mood tonight. What shows are playing at the theater? Just me, the big screen, and a large (buttery, salty, beautiful) bucket of popcorn. Oh yeah.
Date night. "Me" time. All alone, no worries, no stress. I don't have to try to impress anyone or worry about if I'm saying the right things.
I can smell the inversion as soon as I step out of my little apartment (complete with wi-fi and a washing machine). Inhale that smog. Deep breaths.
This morning I stopped at the bank and they recognized me. (I still had to show them my I.D., though.)
On my way to work I bought a bagel and some hot chocolate (with some hazelnut flavoring) from a local cafe-thingy. The guy gave me extra whipped cream and decorated the top with chocolate syrup, jus' because I'm cute and all smiley. I gave him a dollar tip even though I spent less than five.
The taco-stand guys know me and speak to me (in Spanish) on a regular basis. "Quieres cebollas?" Yes, please and thank you.
I show up to work in a skirt and sit at a desk. I leave at five. I park in a multi-level parking garage even though I only live a few blocks away. I take the train to work.
Honestly, compared to most "big cities", this one is rather puny.