I have been thinking lately about the power of listening. Sometimes we forget how important it is to just listen, to hear what someone else is saying. When I pick up my granddaughter at school, I tell her I want to know all about her day. I ask her for the details. What did you draw in art class? What did you do on the playground? If she tells me her day was “good” or “fine,” I push a little harder. She now expects that.
Our children are moving farther and farther away from us. They get so distracted by the computers, the phones, the iPods. They don’t often come to us wanting to “talk.” And we get so busy—doing things that seem important at the time—that we forget to go to them.
A few days ago, I sat down with a group of adolescents and asked the question, “Can any good come out of this tragedy? Can we learn anything from what happened to Trayvon?” One of the young men said something I wasn’t expecting. He said, “Sometimes we have to wear a suit—people in suits don’t get shot.” A few of the teens went on to say that what you wear and how you project yourself really does matter, that being who you are can be dangerous. That was their perception. That was what they took away from the story. I was so surprised and rather pleased that they all were so open, sharing that with me.
For these youth, it was bigger than Trayvon. They were going back to other incidents they had heard about, even tragedies in their own neighborhoods. They were thinking about perception, diversity, stereotypes, assumptions. It wasn’t about blame. It was about the violent death of a child,
and what could be done to keep that from happening again.
I am always struck by what I hear when I just listen. Now I can meet these youth where they are. I can help them work through what they’re struggling with. But if I hadn’t asked, I wouldn’t know.