Learning to Listen

Monday, June 24 was probably the busiest days of the trip for me. We left for the college at 7:30, ate breakfast, and got to work. I spent the first hour or so in a storeroom with Gina, sorting children’s clothes. Then I helped unpack library supplies I brought over. I got a short tour of the library and, after learning the software, got to work. I stayed in the library until 5, with a short lunch break, then had dinner and went back to the guest house.

My job was pretty simple. I took one of the new books that had been donated and entered information about it into the software. For about half of the books, the information was nice and neat and all in one place in the front of the book. For the other half…not so much. That first day I managed to catalog 63 books. It was something that the library staff could do, but I could do it faster. I am, after all, a writer and a quick typist.

A thought from the day: “I seriously feel like such a stupid American. These people speak my language, but I still can’t comprehend half of what they say.  I wonder if they have trouble understanding us.”

This entry got me thinking about how I listen to people. Do I really make an effort to listen, really listen, to people when they are talking to me? While I was in Liberia, I had to make much more of a focused effort to listen to the people speaking to me. It’s so easy here at home to get distracted by the sheer amount of multitasking opportunities. As Americans, it is almost expected that we be doing at least two things at once. When was the last time I gave someone my full attention when they were talking to me? I certainly would like to have someone’s full attention, so it only makes sense that I do the same for others. But more often than not, I find my mind wandering to other things. And that sends a message of “My problems, my priorities, are more important that what you are saying to me.” I don’t know about you, but that’s not the kind of message I want to send people. I want my friends to feel like they have my complete attention when they tell me important things, that I really care about what they’re saying. Because it’s true.

So that’s something I’m going to be working on.

One thought on “Learning to Listen

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