Listening – real listening – is becoming a lost art.  While plenty of reasons exist, the whys of it mean less to me than the what, who, where, when and how of it.  That is, what matters most to me are the personal stories that go untold for the lack of a listening ear…and the lack in our own impoverished lives that results from their untelling.

Listening knows no boundaries.  Two strangers on an airplane strike up a meaningful conversation while lovers go deaf to the other’s cry.  While I’ve lived both stories, I’d rather tell tales on two others.  Who wouldn’t?

The first is on a very good but busy friend I recently called – and knowing her very busy lifestyle, I asked right off, “Am I catching you at a bad time?”  “Oh no… not at all”, she assured me.  But while catching up on each other’s lives, I now know my friend was also waiting in line to catch a quick bite to eat at a fast food restaurant.  In the midst of my voicing some life concern, a piercing voice rang out, “May I take your order please?”  Ouch.  Her cell, while convenient, became a conversation killer.  It’s more than a tad ironic that my friend carries her cell in a holster.

The second tale is a cell of a different order, as my sister Christi doesn’t really believe in cell phones.  Mind, she does own one – she even carries it in her purse.  But no one has her number – not even her.  She has this phone only for her own convenience and safety.  If someone needs to reach her, they know to call her at home and – unless an OU football game is on –she’s ready to cozy up on her couch for a good listen.  Ever since she was little, my sister has been interested in other people’s lives.  If listening is one of her gifts, it grew stronger over her fourteen years on Main Street, where she kept a small gift shop.  Customers dropped in as much to see Christi as to shop – for these women, it was a little like going to the ‘local’ for a cup of coffee and a visit, but without the coffee.  They walked out – often without making a purchase–simply feeling better because Christi had listened to their story.

My sister is a throwback to the past, but in a good way.  I love how Christi doesn’t know her own cell number but how she’s always ready to use her space as a cell of a kinder kind – as in a little spiritual room of a holy person type of cell.  As Christi listens to others from her cell, she offers callers a sense of spaciousness to time and place that invites digging deep into the rich meaning of life, even at the cost of getting messy.  A cell for a cell – but her order of cell has a better ear for listening,

Happy birthday, sis.