Do you remember grabbing your mother’s face as a child — between hands plastered with Elmer’s Glue and graham cracker crumbs — and demanding that she listen?
If you weren’t gutsy enough to grab her face, maybe you poked her or chanted “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom” until she tilted the phone away from her mouth and directed a finger-on-lips, hand-on-hip shhhh! your way.
If you were lucky enough to have a mom like mine, the obnoxious chanting and sticky pleading eventually won you something you couldn’t fully appreciate then and you crave now: someone who will listen.
Being a working, single-twenty-something girl means I accumulate a significant number of random, hilarious, frustrating stories — all in one day. Perhaps this baffling mix of emotional events has more to do with my gender than my age, come to think of it.
Anyway, I often drag trials and triumphs home with me. Were I a 5-year-old toting home embarrassment and excitement in my Lisa Frank backpack, my mom would meet me at the bustop, shoo the worries away with a juicebox and revel in my joy. But, now, as an adult, I carry a laptop bag stuffed with the day’s events back to a often-empty home.
When I open the door, no one is waiting with a snack and an embrace that says, “I’m your devoted listener. I will spend the next 30 minutes soaking up everything you say. Crunch on those Ritz Crackers and spill your guts.”
My lack of a full-time listener has made me incredibly aware of just how much I value anyone who offers an interested ear: “How are you doing?” “What happened last night?” “How did that go?”
These questions melt my heart. They may induce inexplicable crying. But to the person who is kind enough to brave the salty rapids, fear not. These are tears of joy.
I believe we all long for someone who will make eye-contact with us while we share our stories. We want to know that we don’t have to be the sole keepers of aches, dreams, stumbles and accomplishments. The simple utterance of an event, emotion or fear can put everything back into perspective.
By simply being present, the listener has the ability to validate, comfort and inspire.
So here’s the moral of today’s cracker-covered post (Graham and Ritz, in case you missed them): Take a minute to listen to someone today — even if you can’t do it face-to-face. Make a phone call, send a text or walk across the street and offer your undivided attention to someone. Anyone.
What you hear probably won’t change your life, but it may change theirs.