Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I am Listening

Speak for I am listening

When I was 19 years old, I used to take my mother to work in the morning before attending classes at Pensacola Junior College (now Pensacola State College). On the drive one day, it seems that my mother was giving me a discourse on doing well in school, taking care of chores around the house and blah, blah, blah. During this 10 minute lecture, my thoughts drifted off to other things which seemed far more interesting to me at the time. When arriving at my Mom’s workplace, I snapped out of my day dream just in time to hear “….and don’t forget this because it’s really important”. Of course, I had to confess to Mom that I really hadn’t heard one word that she had said throughout the whole time. Most surprising to me was that she took it very well. It was a relief to her to know that I really was interested in listening to her “sometimes”. She wanted me to pick her up from work at the end of the day because my father wouldn’t be able to. That was pretty important to know.

There have been other times in my life when I didn’t listen.  I haven't listened to God, either because I was distracted by other things or too focused on myself and what I wanted to do. Yes, I missed out on some things that were pretty important to know. Today, when I reflect on those times, I feel called to remember the spirit of Samuel.
 And the LORD came and stood forth, calling as at other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel said, "Speak, for thy servant hears." And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. (1Samuel 3:10)

I truly believe that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason-so we can listen twice as hard as we speak. As a result when we offer support to others we need to be an “active listener” rather than being ready to offer advice or form judgment on what we hear.  Active listening involves being truly engaged and present to the other person’s words and message. That then allows our Brother or Sister in Christ to hear his or her own words, as we reflect their content, feelings and spiritual concerns, and God then begins to work in that person making  changes.

While he was yet speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” (Matt 17:5).

Most people think of listening as a simple, natural, and passive activity, but it can be powerful as a caregiving tool for others in need. Using Jesus as our model, Stephen Ministers at St. Paul’s learn the skill of active listening, which involves true commitment and patience from them. Our Stephen Ministers learn to listen for more than just words. They seek true understanding and empathy. Here’s how a Care Receiver once eloquently expressed how a caring Stephen Minister helped her:

"I had lots of people around me but felt like the loneliest person in the world. Everyone told me what they thought I should do, but no one wanted to hear me." "My Stephen Minister is very special to me. I was listened to, cared about, prayed for, taught, loved, and nurtured. I have a true sister in Christ"

If you need someone to talk to about the challenges and problems that you are facing, a Stephen Minister will walk with you in Christ while truly listening to you in a non-judgmental way. Listening is the cornerstone of this ministry and Stephen Ministers consider what you have to say as pretty important to know. If the message in this blog is speaking to you, consider contacting Carmen Guttmann at 475-2514 or Nick Thorpe at 484-4854.   JG

This theological reflection courtesy of the parishioners of St Paul Catholic Church in Pensacola, Florida: