The Art of Listening

The Neighbors by John George Brown

An elderly neighbor has come to call. She is dressed in somber colors with a hooded bonnet protecting her head. An umbrella sits on her lap. She has weathered the elements to come. Her face speaks of troubles and weariness. Her eyes are sunken. The light highlighting her face produce deep shadows. She leans towards her neighbor with an urgency to bear her soul.

The hostess appears a kindly lady about 10 years younger. She has been sewing, but with her neighbor's visit all has stopped. She has welcomed her friend, given her a chair next to her own and offered a beverage. The placement of the chairs side by side speaks of close confidentiality. The sewing set down on her lap and glasses pushed up to her forehead tell us that listening is priority. Her face and features speak of calming strength and peace.

She doesn't look at her neighbor but stares straight ahead - almost to give her friend the privacy to express her troubles as needed. The hand on her ear indicates she is listening intently. This painting is frozen in time. The elderly woman has spoken and its as if the words are hanging in the air while being received and mulled over. Neither woman speaks now. The only action is thoughtful listening. There is a palpable closeness.

Will there be any answers -- any solutions? We don't know but the more you look at this painting the more you feel a peaceful settlement. This neighbor knows something about the art of listening. When we truly listen we stop and concentrate wholly on the other person. We empathize with them and try to understand.

Often without a word an answer comes. Sometimes being able to talk out our troubles brings its own answer. Will you practice the art of listening for someone today? Will you stop what you are doing and be available to your neighbor --whoever they may be? Will you keep quiet while they talk through their own solutions? There is no better counselor than a good listener.

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