It was hot outside.  

Wait…delete that…it was stupid hot outside.  I was standing in line under the misters at a popular fast food restaurant on the corner of Sunset and Highland in Los Angeles.  There was a homeless guy—let’s call him John--behind me hoping to refill an old cup with some water.   

Please don’t talk to me…please don’t ask me for money…

I made sure to look at my phone, and to pretend to be busy.   

It worked.  John never said a thing to me.

But then, I heard someone say something to the John:  “Hey, can I buy you lunch?”

And just like that, everything changed.  

The man--lets call him David—bought John lunch, sat at a table with him, and listened to everything he had to say.  David didn’t say much—he asked a few questions, but mostly he just listened.  It was simple, effortless, and perfect.  It was true listening.  

My table, where I sat alone, was next to theirs.  I couldn’t help but eavesdrop and realize that I was in the midst of an amazing reminder: simply listening to someone is AWESOME.

Here’s why:

  1. Listening is an act of Courage:  Lets face it, listening with a desire to understand, not a desire to respond, is a courageous thing to do.  You’re surrendering your time and presence to another person.  Listening is a commitment to value the thoughts, emotions, and experiences of another person over your own thoughts, emotions, or experiences.  In that moment, you have decided that they are more important than you.  Other over self.  That is the definition of courage.  That’s the nature of listening.
  2. Listening cultivates Patience:  If you’re like me, you’re always in a hurry.  When we rush, time moves very quickly and it’s hard to stay present to the moment.  But listening gives us the opportunity to be patient, to slow time, and be more present to the things around us.   After all, you can’t listen to someone if you’re in a hurry to get to your next appointment.
  3. Listening Validates the speaker: When a person has been heard, they feel as if their story mattered.  Since stories are the substance of our lives, when we feel that our stories mattered to someone, we feel as if we matter.   Every time you listen to someone, you validate them and remind them that they matter. 

David had the courage to reach out to John and the patience to listen to his stories.  

He spent his lunch validating the life of a man who I overlooked.  

He spent his lunch unwittingly reminding me to be a better person.  

He spent his lunch making the world a better place.  

And all he did was listen.

I spent my lunch eating a chicken sandwich.

And all I did was eavesdrop.

If you recognize the opportunity to listen, will you have the courage and the patience to validate another person?  …or will you look at your phone and pretend to be busy?