I went to refill my coffee cup at Panera this morning. A woman was there rooting through her large bag, which she had set on the counter along with her pastries and enough coffees for what appeared to be a small office staff. She was talking on her cell phone. Waiting to refill my mug, I was a captive audience.
“I don’t have them – . I’m sure I don’t have them,” she was saying. “Are you sure you didn’t use them last?” “Wait, I remember. They’re in the zipper pocket of my pink jacket. It’s hanging in the hall closet. If they’re not there call me back.”
I saw a brief opening and slipped my mug under the spout and filled it with black coffee. I made my way back to my computer to write, imagining her husband late for work, looking for the car keys, rooting through the hall closet for the pink jacket with the zipper pocket.
Steam spiraled up from my mug and I got to thinking. To make life work is a combination of a lot of little stuff. Find the keys, take out the trash, pay the bills, pay the bills some more, find the stuff you lost, wash it, clean it, put it away, get it out, use it again, fix it, insure it, store it, well – you know.
Days become weeks, weeks become months. Seasons and pass into seasons and years into years and you can stay so busy with all that little stuff that you just don’t take time for things that are really important, like listening. Maybe there is no better way to show someone that you love them than to listen to them. That is one of my goals in life. I want to learn to be a better listener.
Listen with my ears.
Listen with my eyes.
Listen with my posture.
Listen with my heart.
So far I’ve mostly been working on talking. When I’m not talking I like to write. I’m closing in on forty-eight years of talking. I want to spend the next half-century learning to be a really good listener. That way the people I love will know it and I will know them.
I want them to have memories of me listening with my ears and my eyes and my heart not just tossing the keys to them while I am on the way in and they are on the way out.
October 17, 2006