“Community ultimately means common unity.”
In a personal account of his experiences covering the devastating earthquake in China in 2013 that leveled cities and claimed at least 67,000 lives, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times revealed some of the psychological toll of seeing what he had seen over several days — his sleep disturbed by dreams of corpses, and the anxiety of not being able to get his story finished in time.
In the process of interviewing survivors, he was surprised by how many were eager to talk.
“This was the pattern, almost without exception. Not only were victims who’d lost everything willing to talk; they even at times sought me out. With everything broken around them and so many of their friends and neighbors overwhelmed by problems of their own, many seemed to hunger for someone who would listen to their story and validate what they had been through.”
There was something about the reporter’s detachment that made him a welcome receptacle for their pain and grief. And they wanted to talk.
I think there will be times for all of us when we will be able to provide this service for someone. We are the distant relative or the step-father or mother who doesn’t know all the family history but can provide a welcome place to receive the painful emotions of those who at least are temporarily overwhelmed by them.
I think we often underestimate the value of listening. Listening can validate someone else’s experience. It can help them come to grips with what they have not been able to sort out alone.
This is one time when having little knowledge of someone’s ordeal can actually be an advantage. We may feel we have little to offer, when in fact, we have much. Don’t sell your listening skills sort. Sometimes being detached is just what is needed.
Maybe there is someone you will be able to listen to today.
Sometimes listening with your full attention without judgment is the greatest gift you can give another human being.
What do you think?