In January 1999 I found myself taking a Interpersonal Communications class at my local community college. I had dropped out of nursing school the year before and was floundering with what to study. My dad had died just died 6 months ago and the grief was still raw. My life at home was somewhat unstable as mom struggled to pull herself out of her depression and most days never left her bedroom. To say I was a little lost is an understatement.
But I digress.
The instructor was a middle age hippie. Picture long gray hair. Converse sneakers. Jeans and old T-shirts were his uniform of choice. The first day of class he had us move our desks into a circle and proceeded to spend most of the class having us go around and say something about our current life. Whatever was going on in our head. No filter or judgement he said. The only rule was we all had to listen to each other and there would be no discussion on what was said.
Every class that semester started the same way. Us sharing our thoughts. A motley crew of Community College kids trying to figure out our place in this world. Me being shy I was mortified at the time having to talk. But something happened in that classroom that spring. I found my voice sharing things to these people that I thought would never leave my head. My grief over losing my dad. How hard it was dealing with mom. How I felt lost and listless in my future choices. All came pouring out of me at 10 AM on Tuesdays. That semester my soul started to heal and my grief became less. It also amazed me how similar my classmates worries were to my own. How in the end we all were just trying to find our path forward in the world. The instructor showed us in a novel way how communication and understanding happens.
Current events have reminded me how important listening is. There is a saying from the Dalai Lama that goes, “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” We need to stop listening to reply and start listening to understand.
I don’t have the answers. But I do believe that showing up with kindness, love, and listening ears is more important than ever. The scariest person of all is the one with power and no compassion for others.