Some of my best memories as a child were in the middle of class. This may be hard for you to believe until you realize that “Class” was held in my mom’s living room, around our neighbor’s kitchen table, on my grandparents’ porch or sitting on my aunt’s couch, surrounded by my siblings and some neighbor kids.
I know everyone has mixed feelings about it, but for me, being homeschooled was an amazing part of my childhood!
One of my favorite memories and a very fundamental part of who I am today began with an assignment. My Aunt taught our “English & Communication” class, a beautiful combination, of reading, writing and relating. I still have notebooks FULL of educational and relational material.
On this one particular day, me and the other kids were told to listen to each other. Simple enough. We were sent off in pairs to talk to one another for about 5 minutes. First one child would tell the other about their day, then the other would take their turn in sharing. During this time, we were required to maintain eye contact, and ask questions at the end to show we were listening, like “Are you saying _____?” or “So when you said this, did you mean_____?”
After the allotted time we would come back to class and each share what the other had said & then be graded on how well we actually remembered what they had told us, how well we kept eye contact and asked questions.
It was much harder than you would think. First, keeping my eyes focused was intensely hard, it was….awkward, tedious and just not something I was used to. Second, an 8 year old has better things to think about than what the person in front of them is saying, so actually listing was the next hard step. Caring was not an ingrained desire that I was born with. Lastly, asking questions that related to what the other child said required deeper thought into what they were meaning and required being interested, which required thinking about someone other than myself for a few minutes. It was torture.
At the time, I thought it all was kind of weird and not very educational but it sure beat writing the same paper 6 times until it was perfect, so I was game for it. I could not have grasped how it would impact my life!
Now, 11 years later, I am feel as if I will be FOREVER indebted to my aunt for teaching me the lessons that I have used most in life. Communication and listening. Literally EVERY area of life that I have stepped into, every form of job, ministry, friendship, relationship, leadership, and all the areas in between, have thrived or suffered based on this art.
Sadly, this is one “subject” that many seem to have never taken & this country suffers for it. Bosses who don’t know how to relate to or inspire their employees, mothers and fathers that try to instruct their kids, but don’t actually stop to care about WHY they act the way they do! Teaches who teach but do not engage, kids that make good grades and yet make selfish humans.
We can get everything else lined up and in order but if we do not learn to listen and I mean REALLY LISTEN to others, to care and try to understand, we will continue to have empires built with no heart, lives with no real impact.
Now before I end this, let me tell you a little secret. As I listened to the other children in class that day, though I had no desire to hear about their life, I forced myself to engage. And as I drew them out and sought out details and wrote it to my memory, I found that I wanted to know more. I found that I became interested in their life because I had just become a part of it. And that is the wonder of it! When we listen, even when we have little interest to start with, we find that little by little, we begin to care! Whatever we invest in, we begin to desire to see prosper.
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak..”