The Great Gift
One of the greatest gifts we can give someone is the gift of listening. I’m sure you’ve heard that before. I know I have. But sometimes it takes a real-life example to make ideas sink into our bones. That is exactly what happened to me yesterday.
Yesterday, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed (figuratively speaking). I didn’t wake up at my usual time, and when my alarm clock went off, signaling I had to get up, I pressed the snooze button a few times. Finally, I dragged my sorry rear end out of bed and went downstairs to begin the family’s morning routine. I let our golden retriever pup, Jack, out of his kennel. He was so excited that he jammed his sharp claws into the kennel door and caught my thumb. I snarled at him and put him outside. When breakfast was nearly ready, I gave my son, Parker, a holler. I sung out to him ten times and, finally, fifteen minutes later he came downstairs. I warned him not to take long in the shower, because his mother, a teacher, was on duty at school that morning and I was “not in the mood.” This bad mood carried into the rest of my day. I just felt off, and I wasn’t thinking clearly enough to just sit back and reset.
It wasn’t my most productive day. I got caught up in drama and failed to complete five of the nine things on my to-do list for the day. It was just one of those days.
However, that evening I picked up my eleven-year-old daughter, Anna Lili, from her flute lesson. As she threw all of her bags into the truck, I saw her smile and managed to smile back. She asked, “How was your day?”
Typically, when asked this question, we give a one- or two-word response without any thought. However, like most fathers and daughters, Anna Lili and I have a special relationship. So I said, “It was OK, but it sure could have been more productive.”
As she got in the front seat and we drove off, out of the corner of my eye I saw her fold her legs, sit up straight in the seat, rest her elbow on the center console, and cradle her chin in the palm of her hand. She stared at me intently and began questioning me on why my day had been only OK. I answered all of her questions with the first responses that came to mind. I told her how I love to get up early, at least an hour before I have to start making breakfast. It helps me to start the day on the right note, which typically carries through my day and enables me to be more productive. She never once passed judgment or offered advice. She just listened.
I could tell she wasn’t just hearing. She was listening. We hear with our ears. We listen with our emotional minds. She gave herself to me, for that period, without any thought or opinion until she understood my perspective. She listened with not only her ears but also her eyes and body language.
As we pulled in the driveway, I felt that I had been heard. As I shifted the truck into park, she said, “Dad, just make tomorrow different,” and that was the end of our discussion. I felt better.
Just make tomorrow different - Anna Lili Spurvey
This morning, however, something magical happened. At 5:30 a.m., our bedroom door opened, and in walked Anna Lili. She shook me and told me that it was time to get up. I thanked her, but when she went back to her room I fell back into a light sleep. At 5:45 a.m., I again woke, this time to my phone buzzing. I had received the following text message from Anna Lili. She really did listen.
Yes, when we actively listen to someone, we give them a gift. When we actively listen, we are saying, “I believe that what you think matters.”