One of the greatest lost arts is the simple task of listening. My biggest success in my professional sales career was when I listened more than I talked. Most sales people walk in with an agenda of what they need to say and in the process never listen to what the client needs. The greatest friend you can have is not someone who will tell you what to do but someone who will listen to what you have to say. I recently found myself thinking about who I enjoy listening to the most.
Without a doubt it seemed to fall into two specific categories – people around the age of 12 and those over the age of about 65. These are not hard fast numbers but a general rule of thumb. There is an innocence and purity of a young child and a wealth of knowledge in the elderly.
When a child is born they are born without bigotry, hatred, judgment, and many other behaviors that are born from society and sadly from many homes as the child is raised. I love the honesty of a child that seems to get lost as we get older. I am constantly amazed at what I can learn from my kids. Let me share a recent example.
Last week my 9-year-old son, Evan, had to pick out his favorite bible story and explain how and why it was his favorite. We talked about 4-5 different stories and then he chose from that. He chose David and Goliath. He explained the bible story in his paper then proceeded to blow me away. He wrote that the moral of the story is that we will all have a Goliath in life and through our faith in Jesus he will give us the strength to overcome what may seem to be insurmountable odds. For him and our family, ALS is our Goliath but our faith will provide us with the courage and strength to overcome it. That was from a 9-year-old boy. I wept as I read his report, realizing that many young adults would not be able to understand this story in the same way. I’m sure you have many more examples in your own life when a small child opened your eyes to the world.
Then we have the opposite spectrum with the elderly of our society. Some of my favorite moments in life are from discussions and more importantly listening to an older person. They have so much wisdom and experience to share if given the time and opportunity. One of my favorite moments occurred after my grandmother’s funeral. My dad and about six of his friends from his childhood proceeded to tell and share stories of their lives around a table. I was lucky enough to listen to them for over three hours. There was enough laughter and a few tears from the stories to fill the time and I had always wished I had a recorder to capture that moment. I learned a lot that day about family, friendship, love, respect, companionship, and even suffering. These lessons are still helping to shape and mold my life today. This is why I miss my dad still, because he had so much to offer from the experiences of his lifetime.
So, if you’re stuck in this fast paced life we live in today, take the time to renew the timeless art of listening. Start with the honest purity of a child and top it off with the wisdom of the elderly. Who knows, you just might learn something in the process.