Tuesday, March 17, 2009

escuchar - to listen to, to hear

"Nature has given us two ears, two eyes, and but one tongue--to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak."
--Socrates

There is a bench that sits outside the door to the volunteer house. And, as far as benches go, it's a pretty straightforward place to sit.  These days it's painted a glossy blue and it's surrounded by potted plants and the occasional pair of muddy shoes that have been banned from tracking the rainy season inside the casa.  


Sitting on that bench, most often at night under the glow of a flickering florescent bulb, I feel like I've heard it all.  I've heard jokes. I've heard gossip and secrets. I've heard stories about alcoholism, hunger, and disease. I've heard about death and dying and births and babies. I've heard dreams and disappointments confessed.  I've heard laughter and weeping. On that bench, I've heard the hearts of our students.

Of course there has been a lot of alegría shared on the bench, but a lot of difficult times, too. There have been many nights I sat there outside our house trying to think of the perfect thing to say, the right words to somehow ease worried minds, change bad attitudes, or mend broken hearts.  I've tried to channel words of wisdom from those who counseled on the bench before me.  (I've seriously thought to myself, "WWSDS?"--What would Sr. Damon say?)

But what I've discovered is that it's not about what I have to say; it's not really about me giving advice or suggestions or even encouragement.  It's about me asking questions, encouraging reflection, and showing concern.  Simply, it's about me listening, hearing. 

Which, for me, listening wholeheartedly is much more easier said than done. But in a place where so many of our students long to be understood, long to be heard, I have realized that I have the ability to do so much by merely sitting down with someone on the bench and saying absolutely nothing. So, for that reason, I try my best to escuchar.

1 comment:

Stacy said...

This is my favorite entry so far. This is the best reflection of your life in Bolivia to me.