Monday, November 22, 2010

What I Really Want For Christmas

Very soon I will need to answer the "what do you want for Christmas?" question.  Hmm....

What I would REALLY like for Christmas, if someone could give it to me, would be the gift of being a good listener.

This morning when I pulled up in her driveway to take my granddaughter to school, my daughter-in-law greeted me with a smile, "There's no school today.....remember.... I told you last week."  I remembered the conversation, but I had been so focused on the piece that was the answer to my immediate  question, that I did not take in or remember the other school schedule details she had given me.

At least twice within the last week, my husband has brought to my attention something he told me earlier  of which I claimed no awareness.  I could remember one of them after he jogged my memory with particulars of the conversation, but the other two were lost somewhere in non-listening or non-hearing land.

To some charges of not listening, I can protest "But I can't hear you when you talk to me from the other room or while you're walking away from me or while I'm working in the kitchen next to running water or appliances - you know I can't hear you over those noises."  Because those things are all true.   I do have some hearing loss, and I have great difficulty discerning conversation correctly in a crowded room with much ambient noise.

But it is also true that I often don't pay enough attention when someone speaks to me.  I don't zone in to his/her words soon enough or stay focused long enough.  I am all too often a lazy listener, moving my focus, without my notice, between the speaker and my thoughts.  I am always thinking, reasoning, figuring something out, connecting ideas.  That can be a good characteristic, but it can also be a major impediment to effective listening.

I remember seeing a picture definition of the character trait of "attentive" when our boys were young:  a line drawing of two children in a small tent, with alert eyes and cocked ears, listening, listening to a coyote howling at the moon.  I've spent decades learning to listen to God.....but how much real practice have I given to the discipline of listening well to His people?

I've wanted to be, tried to be a better people listener for a number of years be able to routinely give whoever is speaking to me the gift of my full attention.  But honestly, some days I don't think I've made any progress.

Perhaps carrying pen and paper to write details of what others say to me would help me focus - I usually took superlative notes during class lectures and sermons in church.   Perhaps I should ask my family members to give me pop quizzes on what they've said to me - maybe repeated poor grades would motivate me.   Perhaps someone else has an idea that can help me learn this discipline.  Because I'm pretty sure its not a gift I'll find under my tree this Christmas.

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