We’ve talked about listening as a mitzvah before, but today we’ll touch on a different kind of listening. My friend, Sue, graciously accepted my invitation to be a guest blogger today and share an experience she had recently.
If you like this (and I know you will,) you can read more of her musings at marysuemarshall.com
Listening With the Soul by Mary Sue Marshall
I am known for talking. All my life, from the moment I said my first words, it has been hard for me to keep my mouth shut. I have many friends who can talk just as fast and prolifically as I do. But sometimes, even though it may take awhile, it’s best to listen.
I met with an old friend recently. This was a delightful man, full of life, humor and wisdom. He could keep up with me talking as well as the best of them. But earlier this year, he had a stroke. It was a pretty devastating one. When he finally left the hospital, it was in a wheelchair and into a rehabilitation home. Somehow, when meeting Josh again, I expected to see the same gentle giant, one who could talk a blue streak, as I knew before.
His grey eyes still had the same sparkle. While he is no longer in a wheelchair, he uses a walker, mostly for balance, he said and mostly because the chair attached comes in handy. But he has slowed down, it is difficult to hear him and it takes him awhile to get words out. My usual tendency would have been to answer questions for him and do things for him. This time, for some reason, I held back.
While his delightful, wry sense of humor is still there, his mind is active and his mischievous smile, the one that reaches his eyes are all the same, he is just a bit slower do all the things we take for granted. Like talking, showering, eating, filling a glass.
I learned a lot about stroke survivors. He said that no one is willing to wait for him to answer something, they just answer for him, usually the wrong way. He said he will never learn how to talk again unless there is someone willing to do so and willing to wait for him to be able to get it out. He said, with a wry smile, that it didn’t matter much if he could talk or not because I could do all the talking without a problem! He also said how frustrating it was to be healing from the stroke and able to do something for himself, but no one really wanted to wait for him to do it, so they do.
I recently received a head injury after a severe concussion. I am finding it very difficult to express myself with words. The ease of writing and of speaking has left me for a bit. While I am still capable of doing just about everything, it just takes me a bit longer. The right word will disappear or I can’t remember how to spell a word.
Talking with Josh, him speaking slowly and with great care and me, for once, listening, I learned some great lessons. As friends and parents, we always want to make life easier for those we love. But more often than not, it is the kinder lesson to allow them to do the things for themselves that they can. I realized that the true listening part of love is not what we hear with our ears but what we feel from them in our hearts. I learned that, in this fast-paced word, we are often in a hurry to make things happen, to get things done.
Sometimes, slower is better.Sitting there, listening to Josh tell me the things that had been in his mind awhile, I realized the old adage, “Good things come to those who wait”, is true. By allowing Josh to tell me what was on his mind, rather than saying what it was I thought he wanted to say, I heard the old Josh. He’s still in there. His mind is alive and brilliant as ever. His sense of humor and the little boy grin is just the same, perhaps a little lopsided now, but just the same.
Our old friendship is still there. Nothing has changed much. But I have learned the value of listening, not in the typical sense, but in the goal of Josh learning again how to get the words from that funny, intelligent, quirky mind of his. I learned that by my not talking so much, he heard. By his speaking so slowly, I was able to hear not just the words from his mouth, but what was in his soul.
I received so much more than Josh. We’re meeting again this week, so he can talk.
- Monday Mitzvahs: What My Sister Taught Me About Care-giving (lesliegnelson.com)