BREATHE, WRITE

The Authentic Self

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  • Barbara Cummings

Listening

Updated: Dec 4, 2018

This week's "prompt" for my three person writing group is the single word: listen. All week I've rolled the word around in my head, hoping for a brilliant insight to share with Kathy and Sue. Nothing spectacular has surfaced.


However, I have noticed myself waiting long enough to hear. For example, our window washer, who is a hard-working man who moved here from Poland. Monday he came to do his quarterly cleaning. Instead of chatting about the weather and moving on, I asked Merik how he was. Then, uncharacteristically, I stood still waiting for an answer. His dad, who's in Poland, is critically ill. Merik doesn't know whether to go home, if he can even get a flight, if he should wait and see. He began sobbing. "I'm sorry to cry," he mumbled into his tissue. "It's okay. I'd be crying too," I answered softly.

Later in the week my nine year old granddaughter was also faced with a hard decision. Her mother had given Ruthie an ultimatum: she could keep either her rabbit, Oreo, or the kitten she'd brought home in her bicycle basket. Ruthie, the most outspoken of the group, was angry and blurted it was unfair she couldn't keep both — not taking into account her other two cats, her fish, and her hamster. Ruthie would like to have a zoo as long as she had a zoo-keeper to clean up.

Any other time I, who must've somehow inverse inherited my progeny's proclivity to strong opinions, would have pounced on the opportunity to counsel Ruthie. But this week I was at least thinking about listening. I quelled my natural tendency to tell her flat-out that rabbit had gotten mean. I did not point out Oreo had begun growling at all of us. I stopped myself from observing aloud the sullen bunny was sullen because it wasn't getting the attention it needed. I did not make the case I'd already rehearsed — to ditch the rodent.

This time, instead of talking, I asked Ruthie what she was thinking. "Tell me..." is all I said. The little girl responded matter-of-factly it would be so much better if Oreo had other rabbit friends. After all, Oreo was grumpy these days. The little girl cuddled the tiny stray and cooed sweetly to her baby, "I'll never give you up kitty."

Oreo would soon be history.


Nothing brilliant to send to my astute colleagues about listening except perhaps the realization I should pretty much stop talking. An occasional "Tell me..." is enough.






Ruthie keeps the kitty

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