Choices: I Ear You

His Master's Voice by Francis Barraud

Here’s the thing I’ve noticed about kindnesses. I’m more inspired by what you all have told me you’ve done, than my own drops in the bucket of good will.

It seems that several of you have offered your time and your attention to others while standing in post office lines, grocery lines, and fast food lines.

It also seems that you weren’t looking for a kindness to do. It just stood next to you and opened it’s mouth, which means you had to make a choice:  Radiate the attitude that says you’re as interested as a soggy newspaper about what they have to say OR smile, listen, and nod and grunt at the appropriate times.

Additionally, I have learned the universe will drop opportunities all around me. Open my eyes (okay, maybe substitute “heart” here for “eyes”.)

So it’s entirely because of you all, and your exemplary behaviors that I called back what I knew would be a a whiny, complaining phone call today. I’m on the Boards for a couple of volunteer organizations. I’ve learned that someone is always ticked about something.  But today was different.

(Because of you all) I listened for as long as the guy wanted to complain, rather than find a way to wrap up the meandering conversation. Then somewhere about the 20 minute mark, a brilliant flash of insight made my eyes goggle. The caller was using  “angry words,” but what he was really expressing was “I’m hurt. I feel left out.”

Hokey Smokey. Well this changes everything. My responses to him changed. Somewhere at the 30 minute mark, he was laughing and telling me,”Thanks for calling me back.” He repeated it several times before he was ready to hang up, so I think he was truly thankful.

ON DAY 3: I learned one of the big, big kindnesses we can share is to REALLY listen to each other. I mean REALLY listen so the other person feels they’ve been heard. And I’m pretty sure it creates a ripple in the universe. (You know how I’m always looking for empirical proof).

How’s it going for the rest of you?


About Barb

I escaped from a hardscrabble farm in Oklahoma. I'm not sure why people think I have an accent. I miss the sunshine, but not the fried foods.
This entry was posted in A Laugh, Cats/Dogs, Choices, Hope, Life and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Choices: I Ear You

  1. Barb says:

    You are a good listener. Now you bring up an interesting feeling that begs to be explored. “What makes a person feel inferior? And how many folks with disabilities are automatically put into that category by unthinking folks.
    That deserves to be tested.


  2. Barb says:

    What a blessing you are to share your computer savvy with everyone. And here’s what I learned from you…to shut off my iphone, lap top, etc, and listen with my eyes as well as my ears. Beautiful. What a gift.


  3. Barb says:

    To answer your wondering: “Barb, I’m a bit baffled at the desire for empirical data.”

    Because all of my life, I’ve heard witty quotes about kindness and good deeds. I grew up in a church and family that expected it as the cultural norm. I do believe it, but like everyone has told me, it’s impossible to measure the results.

    And I said, “Let’s just see about that.”
    With all of your loving help, I’m getting astounding answers–right in front of my eyes, but more about that, later.


  4. Barb says:

    Thank you (and everyone else) for listing some of your kindnesses. I think there’s a big difference in chest-thumping and sharing info. It’s really fascinating to see all the healing, and goodness we put into the world around us–without even thinking about it. You also gave me the next blog topic.


  5. Barb says:

    Wow!!! What great feedback you all have given me. I really want to hug each of you, but I’ll have to do it with my replies….


  6. Rose Lefebvre says:

    Listening…I do that a lot in my work! I often hve students coming in who just need someone to talk to and allow them to express their frustrations, fears, disappointments, etc.
    Often when a student leves my office they will say, “Thank you so much for listening to me. It helps.”
    I think that people with various disabilities often think others catagorize them as “inferior” and do not take the time to listen to them.
    They need ears to hear their words.


  7. Les O'Riley says:

    I think the bottom line is it’s good if we all try just a little bit harder to slow down a bit and think about others more. Roxie makes good points, too many to reference. Barb, I know you like seeing results and the fruit of your efforts, but I think we need to look at dishin’ out RAKs, as you put it (so funny!) as just a karmic thing. They’re good to do. For others and simultaneously, for ourselves. We may see the fruit of our efforts or we may not. No good deed, thought, or word of kindness is ever wasted.

    Tuesday I offered to return a shopping cart to the store for an elderly lady who had just unloaded her two small bags. She said, “Oh thank you sir, I was just dreading having to push it back up the hill.” I smiled and said “No problem, I’m going in anyway, I’ll even put the cart to good use.” Turning around I saw the slightest slope leading back to the store. Was this the hill she was talking about?

    Yesterday I picked up a fellow “Toastmaster’s” computer, (TM is a speech practicing group) and put Quicktime on it so she could watch a few practice speeches that my wife and I had recorded with her and burned to a CD. At first I loaded RealPlayer, but it wouldn’t play the format I recorded them in, so off came RealPlayer, on went QuickTime. Then configuring to autoplay, etc., everything to make it simple for her. Some computer stuff is so time consuming it just doesn’t seem worth it, but doing it for others makes you feel good, and them happy. Today I’ll help my next door neighbor clear off a bunch of stuff from her ‘puter, and then teach her how to burn CDs. The other day I taught her how to download songs from iTunes. (Shouldn’t I be JOB hunting instead of doing this?!) This afternoon I’ll help another neighbor (82 yrs. old, and computer savvy, sorta) install a graphics program that another friend gave to her. Then tomorrow, off to help one of her friends with a computer virus. My grumpy factor is tempted to flair up! Down, temper, DOWN!

    I’m doubling what I was going to send to, since my wife just got reimbursed for a bit of local driving mileage and I got a Grand Jury check. Think about Haiti for one minute and it’s pretty hard to gripe about anything.

    I’m with Roxie ~ KUDOS on really listening to the man that called in griping. There is such a difference between “hearing” and “listening.” You re-discovered that the other day. It’s like going from your ears registering input from a foreign language, to listening to someone speak to you in your own language. I wish more people would “listen” and not just “hear.” When Iris speaks to me and we’re both here with our laptops on our laps, I close mine to signal that I really am “listening” and not just nodding “un-huh” only halfheartedly (did you know that halfheartedly is now a single word?) paying attention.

    This post of yours was hard to not go on-and-on in response to. Thanks for the thought provoking ideas. ~ Les


  8. Roxie says:

    Does it count if you don’t have to decide to do it? UUumm, who’s keeping score and what’s the object of the game? It counts for the person receiving the kindness. It counts for re-inforcing your character and your habits of kindness and generosity. It counts for making the world a more pleasant place to live in. I tink it counts. I know when I automatically send a percent of my paycheck to Med Teams Intnl, it counts for all the people who would otherwise die without the care. I love piecing quilts and am delighted to find an outlet for them. It’s pure pleasure for me, and when they get to that orphanage in Roumania, it counts for the kids who can finally sleep warm. It’s not random kindness,though.

    I think the object of random kindness is NOT knowing the results. Doing good for a stranger because you want to put more good into the world.

    Barb, I’m a bit baffled at the desire for empirical data. We are not exactly talking about quantifiable elements here, for the most part, and the experiments will be wildly uncontrolled. Moreover, kindness can be a matter of perception. If a man holds the door for a woman, is that simple kindness, or male chauvanistic condescension? What if he does it out of condescension and I take it as a kindness?

    What do you want for data? This is not something that can be weighed, measured, graphed or objectively quantified.

    I do know that when you are feeling sorry for yourself, the best thing you can do is find someone else to help. I do know that what goes around comes around.

    I know that when I worked downtown and passed homeless derelicts begging on the street, if I made eye contact and looked past the dirt and decay to the person inside, often that person was pleasantly startled to be seen. I didn’t carry cash, but the regulars soon learned to look for me and greet me with a smile anyway, handing the kindness back.

    And bravo for you, taking the time and patience to listen, really listen, to the angry whiney guy. At the bottom, we all want to be heard, to be seen, to be accepted. In order to see and hear, we have to take down our defenses. Being vulnerable, we will sometimes be hurt. Some of those street people were full-loon-crazy, yelled at me, and frightened me, but I kept looking for the person behind their eyes anyhow. Because we NEED to be seen, to be heard, to be acknowledged.

    If I were a virtuous woman, I would go play with the neighbor’s little boy, or walk their dog, or (shudder!) offer to baby-sit. My kindness does not stretch that far.

    I’m good at flash-kindness. Tell a total stranger her earrings are pretty. Enjoy the startled smile and thanks, and the way she holds her head high and proud as she walks off. Her day is better, my day is better.

    Dayamn, you have me philosophizing like I know what I’m talking about. WE could talk about this for hours!


  9. Lisa Nowak says:

    How do I feel? I dunno. Good about making other people’s days better. Good about not being completely selfish. A little weird about listing it all out, because it somehow cheapens it, like I’m trying to suck up to a teacher, or something.

    Do I think changed something for anyone? Well I know I did for Sharee, the friend I wrote the email to.

    How do I balance the choices? Good question. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I make myself and my husband crazy because I’m doing stuff for other people when I should be taking care of my own things. That probably sounds really egotistical, but it’s not like that. It’s not like I’m some wonderful, sweet person. It’s more like when I see that someone needs something, and it’s something I can do, I feel compelled to help. Not always. If it’s something I absolutely hate doing I’ll just look the other way. But the stuff I don’t mind doing and I’m good at, well, it’s like I can’t say no. So maybe some of those things I did, like bringing the netbook for Alice or sending the email aren’t really random acts. Because as soon as the opportunity presented itself, I knew I’d do it. It wasn’t really a choice, more a given. People could totally take advantage if they wanted to. Good thing my friends aren’t like that. 🙂


  10. Barb says:

    Wow, Lisa, that’s some list.
    Here’s something I noticed about your entries…you were aware of doing them. I wonder if being aware of doing acts of kindness, makes us look for more opportunities to do them?

    So you do you think you changed anything for anyone? You’re right, we may never know. Like #5 or #6, you may have made these guys feel good, so they didn’t go inside and kick the dog and scream at the kids–but it’s hard to measure.

    So let me ask, after doing an arm length of kindnesses, how do you feel? And how do you balance those choices?
    Anyone? Because, after all, we are talking about choices.


  11. Lisa Nowak says:

    That’s really cool that you listened to that guy. I know when I’m really ticked off about something and the person I’m lodging the complaint with is nice to me it always take the wind out of my sails because I feel guilty being mean to someone kind.

    I had a lot of opportunities today:
    1. I dragged the garbage can and recycling bin down the driveway instead of leaving them at the street for my husband to retrieve.
    2. I cut yesterday’s Doonesbury out of the paper and mailed it to Susan because it had a bit about a college student joining the circus, and her daughter is, in fact, trying to join the circus.
    3. I copied a link to a website to my memory stick and took it and my netbook to Chrysalis today so Alice could watch this book trailer she’d been wanting to see.
    4. I told TC I’d give a copy of her article to Paula next week since she won’t be there to do it herself.
    5. I printed out a Hooters calendar (owls, not bazooms) that someone had sent me as a joke and gave it to Roxie because she has such a racy sense of humor.
    5. When pulling out of the library, I noticed a guy coming down the sidewalk, so I backed up so he wouldn’t have to walk around the back of my car—he smiled a thanks at me.
    6. When I took my walk I smiled and said hello to a guy who was coming out to get his garbage can. I think it caught him off guard.
    7. I wrote a lengthy response to an email a friend sent asking me the difference between a blog and a website and which would be best for her needs and abilities. She replied with enthusiastic thanks, saying she really appreciated it because she knew how busy I was.

    I also missed an opportunity. I could have given a tip to the cashier at the Burgerville drive-thru. I’m sure there are a lot of other things I could have done, too. But I do have responsibilities of my own to tend to. You have to find a balance between helping and living.


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