One of the first things I usually notice when volunteering at a food pantry or shelter is how eager the people are to talk. Many times the poverty of not having food and the poverty of not having shelter are accompanied by the poverty of having no one to listen to their stories, no one to care. As much as they appreciate the food I might offer them, they need my ears just as much.
Recently I was telling a singing colleague about my blog. I tried to summarize its themes and how it fit into my life, and as usual I felt lame describing myself as a “blogger”. This fellow soprano thought for a moment, and told me how envious she was of my audience. “At least you know someone cares what you have to say, that someone is listening.”
My heart breaks for those who feel unheard, for those who wonder if they don’t matter since they don’t have an audience. While I try to refine my soul so that being heard doesn’t define me, I am still so aware of the blessing and privilege that I have in always having had someone who would listen to me.
In my most tiresome, confused years, I acted out to get people to listen, but there was always someone who saw through my attitude and saw the simplicity of the need I was trying to articulate: Listen to me. Validate me. Know me.
I don’t do a good enough job of responding to this need in other people, but I’m striving to be more present and to listen more fully. This is harder than feeding people, or throwing money at organizations, or throwing words at a page. So I struggle but I try, believing it is the only way to make a return on the unearned privilege of being heard.