It’s one of the rare occasions when I’m shopping at Kroger kid-free. What a luxury! Time to peruse the produce instead of tossing the closest banana bunch in the cart. Ah, it’s the small things in life, no?
“Ashley!” someone calls out waking me from my revelry. I turn to see my 85-year-old neighbor, Mrs. Jacks. She pushes her cart beside mine and starts chatting.
Seeing Mrs. Jacks isn’t unusual nor is her striking up a conversation. What’s special about today’s exchange is there are no boys vying for my attention. This simple fact allows me to actually listen to what she has to say.
She’s had a rough year. I won’t share her personal sorrows but believe me when I tell you it’s a long list.
When a friend was studying for her degree in social work, she often asked me to help complete assignments where she had to “counsel” a “client”. I was always up for unloading and she needed to finish her homework.
She rephrased what I said but never added anything else. It’s amazing how such a small, simple listening technique makes you feel important. When my kids were small, I completed a class called Positive Parenting that taught the same skill.
“I want that toy!!!” I. would wail.
“You want that toy,” I would respond and magically divert a tantrum.
“It’s just been so hard,” Mrs. Jacks says.
“It sounds like you’re been having a hard time,” I say.
“I have!” she answers and talks uninterrupted for another ten minutes.
“It sounds like you are doing everything you can to help,” I prompt.
“I hope so,” she says and is off and running.
Sometimes people just want to be heard. They don’t need to know about your second cousin who recently dealt with a similar situation. No solution needs to be proposed. They just want you to listen.
“I better go,” she says. “We’ve been talking so long I think my ice cream might be melting!”
She rushes off and I turn back towards the produce.
Her words stick with me. I hate it for her that she’s having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit.
That gives me an idea for tomorrow…