How will we ever understand if we don’t stop and not only listen but also hear?
I further made the transition this year from listening to hearing. Listening engages the ears, but hearing engages the heart. I know that I have heard someone when I can recall what they have said and it sticks with me; either causing me to want to change something about my life, or moving my heart in some way. An example of this comes from a woman named FROG.
It was a Tuesday afternoon. I was walking along the sidewalk in the bustling shopping district, when I almost ran into a woman named FROG. FROG is a woman without a home and she was standing in the middle of the sidewalk.
She yelled at me, “Thank you for smiling today!”
I said, “Thank you!”
I noticed her hat said “Jesus” on it.
“I like your hat!” I said.
And that was the beginning of our conversation.
She proceeded to tell me her entire life story. She spilled every detail, talking about her tumultuous past and then to my joy, her discovery of God. At the climax of the story, she stopped. She looked into my eyes and asked a pertinent question, “Would you like to know my name?”
What a question to ask.
“Of course I would love to know your name!” I replied.
“My name is FROG.”
Okay, not the typical Sarah or Jane, but intriguing.
She continued, “Would you like to know what it means?”
“Yes, very much so.”
“It means Fully Reliant On God. God gave me that name and I now I go by it.”
I told her that I loved her name and talked to her a little longer. Touched by her closeness to God, and her reliance on Him, her story stuck with me. I had a meeting to run to, but with a hug and a smile goodbye, I left.
How many people walk through life with that question ringing in their ears, “Would you like to know my name?”
People want to be known.
People want to be heard.
My experiences with people without homes point me to the fact that a lot of people don’t have ears and hearts for someone to hear their story. To take that another step further, it’s not just people living on the streets that are longing to share their story.
As Maya Angelou says, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Everyone has a story. With the rise of social media, one might argue that people share their stories all of the time. Although this may be true in some capacity, your “story” on Snapchat or Instagram doesn’t fully encompass the hurts, the joys, and the tumultuous experiences that daily life brings.
David Augsburger says that,“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”
When we are truly heard, we feel more human, as if someone understanding our heart confirms our soul’s existence. What was so significant about that encounter with FROG was that she spoke and I heard. I heard the woman that people pass with glazed faces and disinterested ears. I heard her cry to be known. I was convicted of all of the times I’ve passed by a story, a person, with my own glazed, stoic face and unreceptive ears.
Instead of being satisfied with the 10 second video snap shot someone can create on social media, I want to challenge us to make more space in our day to truly hear people. To put down the phone, look up from the computer screen, look past one’s friends, and engage with the world around us. Let us listen more and in so doing, also hear. Hear to understand, to grasp the beauty of a person’s soul and find solidarity with them.
Without fail, whenever I pass FROG on that corner she says, “Thank you for smiling today!” And I respond with a “Thank you!” and a big smile back. I hear you FROG, and God hears you too.
“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
words by Abigail White and photo by Hailey Pierce