My grandmother got it.
She understood the power of listening.
She would always sit and focus attentively when I came to see her. She didn’t tell me how to fix things, or what I should, or shouldn’t do; she just sat quietly as I talked.
I was in college, discovering a new world of friends, facts, and the fraternity of scholars. I was infatuated with the new, the modern, and thinking on the edge. I was in the process of throwing “old school” out the window.
In spite of my forward thinking and sophistication, every week or so, I needed to re-anchor myself in my world, the real world. I did that by driving 20 miles to her “shop,” the family plumbing business that she continued to run into her late 70’s. She’d see me coming in the front door. As I made my way through the Kelvinator appliances and Sherwin-Williams paint display and back to her office, we would meet half way and sit in her conversation area, a place that looked a lot like home; with sofa, comfortable chairs and coffee table. She would beckon me to sit, and talk; and I did. She would smile expectantly as she listed to me recount my hopes, my dreams, and my ambitions.
My grandmother has been gone for thirty years. But my memory of her, and to some extent, her presence, lingers on. When I struggle with life, or some difficult problem, I often find myself, in my mind, having one of our conversations; sitting, talking, and sensing, that somehow, she knew it would all turn out just fine.
The gift she gave was her willingness to listen. She gave me the will to get back up, dust myself off, and never give up. By her actions she instilled in me a belief that no matter how bad it got, no matter how difficult the problem, it will get solved, and things will, one way or another, turn out all right.
This is what we do for those that we take the time to hear, and understand.