Learning through Life

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Hampshire, United Kingdom
I love how our day-to-day life can teach us lessons to help us understand our past, challenge our today, and inspire our future. We can learn through experiences, situations, conversations, songs, books, nature ... the list is endless! Live with eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear and a heart ready to be touched.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The one with the card

This morning I made my way to Basingstoke and whilst there I popped into a card shop to purchase a New Home card.   Having successfully negotiated my way round the somewhat disorganised shop, and picked out a card, I headed to the till.  The queue consisted of only one other person, and there were two assistants ready to serve.  My turn to pay came round quickly, and in less than a minute I had parted with £1.40 and walked out the shop with the card neatly placed in a bag.  Job done.  So, why did I leave the shop contemplating the rudeness of the shop assistant?  She hadn't listened.

You see, the very brief interaction I had with the shop assistant went something like this:

Shop Assistant: 'Hi' (takes the card I wish to purchase)
Shop Assistant: 'That's £1.40 then please' (puts card back on counter and hand hovers to receive cash)
Me: (rumbles around in my purse and presents £1.50) 'There you go'
Shop Assistant: 'Thanks' (takes money, puts in till) 'Would you like a bag?'
Me: 'No, it's fine thank you' (waits for change)
Shop Assistant: (takes out change, holds it in hand whilst putting card in paper bag) 'There you go then'
Me: (Takes 10p change and paper bag with card in, and walks out the shop wondering how 'No it's fine thank you' could have been translated as 'Yes, please I would love one!')

All could have been forgiven if the shop had a lot of background noise, but as it was quiet, there is no way the shop assistant hadn't heard me.  She just hadn't listened to my answer.  This rattled my cage, (can you tell?!)  but as I thought about it later over a Chai Tea Latte,  I began to wonder whether, at times, we can all be guilty of hearing but not listening.  

I know that the shop assistant could hear my answer; I spoke up and spoke clearly.  'Yes' and 'No' do not sound the same.  So, why did I find myself with a bag in my hand that I had not asked for?  My guess is, that instead of actually listening to my answer, the shop assistant merely assumed I would say 'yes' to a bag.  

I wonder how many times we do something similar?  How often we assume we know the answer to a question, without really taking the time and effort to listen carefully to what is actually being said? 

Perhaps the speed of our lifestyle has a lot to do with this.  We ask questions in passing, such as 'how are you?' and far too often never actually stop to listen to the answer.  We assume that the person is all right, and incorrectly interpret 'ok' to mean 'great' when really the person is hurting or finding things tough.   

Paul Tillich wrote 'The first duty of love, is to listen.'

As Christians we are called to love.  We must strive to love at all times, not just when it is convenient. If Tillich is right, and I personally believe there is a lot of truth in his statement, then we really do need to concentrate on developing the lost art of listening. 

Real listening involves both hearing and understanding.  

A fuller understanding comes through listening to the words, their meaning, and the context and tone in which they are spoken.  It can also be just as important to listen to what is NOT being said.   Yes, it takes time and it takes effort.  But doesn't love?

I want to show the love of Christ to people, and having considered the thoughts that followed the aforementioned card incident, I cannot help but feel challenged to work at developing my listening skills.  If genuine listening demonstrates love, I pray I am not the only one to be challenged.

Are you prepared to demonstrate love by slowing down and focusing enough to hear what people are really saying?
This week, when you politely ask someone the question 'How are you?' - don't assume you know the answer and rush on.  Stop.  Listen.  Respond.  Love.

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