Good listeners, fully attentive ones, are becoming an endangered species. If you find one, count yourself blessed. They are the ones Gregory Boyle describes in Barking to the Choir:
“I consider it a singular blessing in my life to have known Cesar Chavez. Though many
celebrate his vision, his community organizing skills, and his ability to create and galvanize a
movement, I most remember and admire his keen skill at listening. If you were speaking to
him, he wasn’t looking over your shoulder, eyeing a more important person on the approach.
Nothing and no one else existed in that moment but you and whatever you were going on
I found a ‘Cesar Chavez’ listener after I returned from an enriching trip to Peru. When I met a friend for lunch I was keenly aware of how she gave the gift of her genuine interest and complete attention to the details of my journey. I left the restaurant both humbled and grateful for that generosity. My friend allowed me to not only remember my joy but expanded it by the way she listened to my description of it. A similar situation occurred the following week when a member of our morning prayer group brought a photo album from a son’s wedding. I noticed how the enthusiasm and focus each person gave to the photos nurtured the love and pleasure this mother had experienced at the wedding.
Oftentimes ‘good listening’ is associated with someone’s trials and strained lives, and it certainly benefits another in that regard. But attentive presence also applies to our joys. We give another an added delight when we join them with our undivided focus on their treasured memories, whether that be a young child tugging for our attention or an elder relating an oft-told story. This listening, of course, becomes increasingly a challenge due to electronic devices and social media vying to claim the greatest portion of our attention.
So it is that I turn today to the Divine Listener, the One with complete attentiveness to both our joys and sorrows. I do so with the hope that our generous presence remains large enough to listen with an undivided ear and heart when another person waits to be heard.
Listener (From: Fragments of Your Ancient Name)
Your ear, beloved Listener, opened wide,
Pressed to each portion of my heart, my life.
Attuned to the slightest vibration of my being,
Attentive to the constant rhythms of my soul.
You hear the cry in the throat of my heart.
My troubles do not cease with your awareness
But they soften, lessen some of their grip,
Become bearable, touchable, endurable.
If your attentive solicitude blesses so fully,
Surely I, too, can listen that closely to others.