Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Am I Listening?

Lasting friendships require effort, interest, grace, patience, consideration and balance (and so much more).  Communication is so important.  Conversations that bounce back and forth as we balance sharing, inquiring, listening and hearing are the ones that result in true and deeper relationship. 

It can be easy to lose balance.  In the current culture in which we are constantly supplying the world with notifications, blogs, tweets, and commentary on our own lives ... we need to remember that true communication and conversation involves taking the time to go deeper, ask questions and gauge responses.

Of course there are seasons where one person is the listening ear for the other.    We should never keep score.  We ought to remember, though, to show that we care enough to engage beyond ourselves.   I have become more and more aware of my shortcomings in this area.  Though I can be a very sympathetic listener... am I a good listener?  Not always.  I want to be.  I also want others to take interest in knowing me, too.  We all want to be heard.

If my friend asks me about my day, am I careful to reciprocate?  If we have a long conversation about a situation in my life and run out of time ... do I at least make a point of saying "I want to hear what's going on with you next time"? 

Am I listening? Am I drawing my friends out with questions that show I care?   I am trying to improve.  I want to become more aware and be a better friend.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

Awkward Expressions and Remembrance

When I was a child I attended more than my fair share of funerals.    I came from a big family in a small town.  We also were a generation that suffered a horrific number of alcohol related deadly accidents.  There was a season when I was all too familiar with Kidders Funeral Home in Swanton, Vermont.

I have a vivid memory of being at the services for my Aunt Donna ... one of the first and closest ones for me.  I was in 4th grade, I think.   When I walked into the Wake with my family;  I did not know how to act.   I was afraid I would do the wrong thing.  I remember that I smiled or laughed and then felt an extreme sense of fear and guilt.  Thankfully, my Uncle John pulled me up on his lap and told me that there was no wrong feeling or emotion when suffering loss.  That it was ok to be awkward and that Aunt Donna knew that I loved her and would want me to be ok.  He told me I didn't have to be afraid or put on a brave face.  It was so comforting and has been impactful even in recent years.   In the face of death it is ok to live.

Today we remember the tragedy of September 11.   Earlier this week the memes and posts started on social media reminding people to remember ... and in some cases challenging people to feel guilty and ashamed for "not remembering enough" or to follow a certain political agenda if they truly cared.

I feel compelled to remind that we all remember, reflect and honor in different ways.   These may be manifest in actions both seen or invisible.  They may be awkward.  While some may gather around the water cooler and remember where they were,  others are meditating privately,  many will attend a public service or prayer meeting,  others are posting photos and thoughts on facebook,  or may decide to gather at a pub with friends.  Feelings vacilate from shock, anger, sadness and fear to hope, resolve, pride and honor.

Some people celebrate their birthday on September 11th, or  their anniversary,  or an unrelated loss of family.  Maybe today is the day to celebrate a childs first words or a promotion at work.   You may find a really funny comic to share or recommend a movie online.  It's all ok.

I think it's important that as we remember to remember, that we remember to live and have grace for each other.  We remember to show and extend this grace by recognizing that an expression of grief or remembrance may be awkward or it may be internal. 

I still can't see 911 or 9/11 or 9:11 or September or  planes in the sky, the New York skyline, the American Flag,  a firetruck or a beautiful September blue sky without remembering.    My expression of that may not look like yours, but I remember.