Two psychiatrists met at their 20th college reunion. One is vibrant, while the other looks withered and worried. "So what's your secret?" the older looking psychiatrist asked. "Listening to other people's problems every day, all day long, for years on end, has made an old man of me."
"So," replies the younger-looking one, "who listens?"
Unfortunately, that is too often a problem -- who listens? REALLY listens?
I received a letter from a woman who lives in New York. She explained that her 22-year-old electrician son went to Manhattan last week.
Joe may have helped in a way he never anticipated, for on the train home, he sat across from a weary firefighter covered in what appeared to be "ground zero" dirt and debris. Though he could see bits of rock in the man's hair and noticed that his hands were bloody, what shocked the young man most was the look in the firefighter's eyes. They appeared lifeless and dull.
Then the man began to talk and Joe listened. He talked about retrieving a shoe with a foot inside. Joe listened. He talked about cleaning debris from a face, then discovering that this person's body was gone. Joe listened. And as his listened, he did not flinch. He did not react in disgust. He did not judge. He did not interrupt. He just listened.
He listened as the firefighter lamented about the carnage everywhere and about shoes...there were so many shoes, he said. Everywhere...shoes.
Through it all Joe quietly held the man's attention and listened, which is exactly what the rescue worker needed at that moment. And because he listened, the man continued to speak. He talked his pain out, as much as possible. And Joe, for that time at least, helped him carry his unbelievably heavy burden.
That day Joe did not give blood, nor did he use his electrical skills to help with the relief effort. But he did one of the most important things a human can do for another. He gave a stunned and disheartened man his whole attention, and thereby immeasurably assisted in the work of setting the world right.
Mary Lou Casey says, "What people really need is a good listening-to." Now more than ever.