One of the best bits of teaching I’ve ever tried to apply to my life is to be a good listener. It’s much easier said than done. I’ve found it can be incredibly hard to listen well. My mind tends to wander (I can hear my wife now… “TENDS to wander!?!”)… I have a real problem with listening well. It takes great effort and intentionality to do it well.
I can’t remember when I first heard that, when helping others specifically, “you need to dedicate yourself to listen first.” And though I sometimes struggle to be a good listener due to a constantly wandering mind, I have been blessed with an accompanying gift that has encouraged me to strive towards being a good listener. That gift, is the gift of putting my foot in my mouth. This “gift” has taught me some harsh but good lessons on listening first, and speaking second (or sometimes not at all).
So it was a great encouragement for me that over the course of the past week, on two separate occasions, I was thanked by someone specifically “for listening.” The first was during a visit to a COVID Encampment site in Parkdale. I was speaking with a gentleman stationed there, who I had met before but not really had the opportunity to converse with or get to know. He knew my teammates well, but I was very much still a newbie to him, and he to me. As we engaged in conversation, he told me all about the protocols of the space he and his friends are occupying (the city has yet to hit the high gear in finding and supplying safer places for those struggling with homelessness). Their encampment system, as he explained it, was quite regimented and admirable. In the middle of explaining to me how they screened newcomers (to ensure the safety and well-being of those already camped in this particular space), he stopped mid-sentence — “thanks for listening by the way” he said, before continuing on.
The second occasion came as I was conversing with one of our Dale folks during our Thursday morning take-away breakfast. He was explaining to me some of the struggles he and his family were having during this pandemic, and how he is trying to cope with them. This is someone I’m able to converse with on a regular basis, and once he had spoken his peace on the matter, he concluded: “thanks for listening.”
I have found that listening to others is a blessing and a privilege. I think deep down we all want to feel heard and understood. To be a listener is to be a student, which is a wonderful thing. I’m thankful for all that comes when we listen well. It makes me want to be a better listener.
My name is Pete Nojd. I’m a Community Worker at The Dale Ministries in Toronto, Canada. We seek to empower those experiencing poverty of spirit or space. We have little, but give and share what we have. As part of this labour of love, I seek to raise 100% of my salary in order to continue in this work. If you’d like to donate, please click this direct link https://www.thedale.org/donate/ or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.