I talk. A Lot. I accept this about myself, yet I also have been more aware of the need to be quieter and to listen more intently to myself and others. Today’s pursuit of being kind to myself and others centered around the theme of doing more listening than talking.
One of my favorite things to listen to is music by a variety of artists, and I particularly enjoy going to concerts. So, I was thrilled when I stumbled upon today’s pre-sale for tickets to see the amazing Ray LaMontagne in concert again, and I didn’t hesitate to buy the tickets. The concert is not until this summer, but it will be more than worth the wait. The thought of spending an evening listening to such incredible music performed live makes my spirits soar and my heart sing. Music is intensely personal and meaningful to me, and treating myself to this concert was the kindest thing by far I did for myself today.
I returned this kindness by listening to the men at the day shelter for homeless men who needed someone to talk with them. This week has been busier than usual, due to a number of our staff being out-of-town for a conference. While we are short on staff, we are not short on the number of men to help and the amount of work to be done, so, we all have been pulling extra duty. In the midst of the hustle and bustle, I was approached by someone who generally keeps to himself. I was in the middle of a task, but something told me to stop what I was doing and give him my full attention. I was glad that I did.
He is relatively new to the day shelter and tends to be a loner, and I don’t know much of his story. He lives with a severe mental illness that causes his thoughts and words to be somewhat difficult to decipher and follow, and it is tough to determine just how much he comprehends when someone speaks with him. Today, though, when I took the time to listen, I mean really listen, to him. While he bounced from topic to topic, I still was able to follow along and discovered that he is a keen observer and admirer of fashion, of all things, and that he hails from Indiana and that he loves sweets. He spoke excitedly, and I listened attentively and commented when appropriate. He abruptly ended the conversation and returned to his seat at a nearby table. Later when I passed by him, he smiled and said, “Thank you for our talk”, but before I could respond, he walked away. It was a brief conversation, but somehow, he felt heard and understood in that moment. Sometimes, that’s what matters most to a person who is otherwise invisible to the rest of society. By the way, you are welcome, Samuel, and the pleasure was mine.
Just one thing each day . . .
Categories: Just One Thing Each Day
Although of course not qualified or in position to diagnose, I will hazard that probably this guy can understand everything you say–unless there is temporal or parietal lobe brain damage that impairs language processing. With most of what the mainstream considers psychiatric disorders, the problems lie not so much with with understanding speech, as with expressing oneself in accordance with social conventions, and less .
Thanks for your comments, as they are appreciated and well-said. In addition to living with a severe mental illness, he also may have had a closed head injury that caused damage to his brain. He is such a unique man, and today’s chat was a highlight.
This is a fantastic response because you understand how important it is to be listened to and you have shown such compassion and care in being that listening ear to that gentleman. You set a wonderful example for all of us to follow.
Elizabeth, coming from someone who is as courageous and genuine as you are, your words really mean a lot to me. Thank you . . .