I was touched by this message on the Tabernacle Choir broadcast last Sunday.
We live in a world that seems to have stopped listening. Sound bites have replaced conversation; texting has displaced telephone calls; rhetoric has supplanted dialogue; and multitasking has divided our attention. So often, listening isn’t on the list of things to do and so it gets overlooked.
Famed solo percussionist and composer Dame Evelyn Glennie, who performed with the Tabernacle Choir during the 2002 Winter Olympics, began losing her hearing at age 8, and by 12 she was deaf. But though she could no longer hear, she found that she could still listen. “Listening to music,” she contends, “involves much more than simply letting sound waves hit your eardrums.” She describes listening in her legs and feet, her face, her neck and chest. She performs around the world and, in one sense, never actually hears either her music or the applause it inspires. But she feels it and sees it and understands it deeply.
Her goal, she says, “is to teach the world to listen” in the way she does.
Evelyn Glennie’s insights apply not just when listening to music but also when listening to people. So many cry out, “Listen to me,” but only those who truly know how to listen can even hear them. Listening is much more than hearing with our ears. It requires shifting the focus from ourselves to someone else. It takes time and often is not convenient. With our ears, but also with our eyes, our minds, our hearts, and our actions, we say, “I’m listening. I’m hearing and thinking about what you are saying. You matter to me.”
In this loud and noisy world, think how much it means to someone when you really listen, when you take time to understand their woes and challenges, their joys and excitement, their dreams and aspirations. Consider the gift of love you give when you show that you care by truly listening.