Care and listen to those around you

Busy. We love this word. We act like we hate being so busy. But if we’re honest, there’s a part of us that loves it. We wake up, cram homework and then go from thing to thing, class to class, lunch with this person, then coffee with that person and hopefully we’ll see our friends at some point. We’ll check our phone a thousand times. It tells us what’s next on the calendar, fills us in on the news and then, sometimes, we communicate with it. Going from thing to thing has a certain pace to it that allows us to ignore everything that’s not on our calendar. This is what my day so often looks like. I live like this.

I recently realized how big of an issue this lifestyle is. I was sitting in class, trying to finish an email, when the professor started asking for prayer requests. At first, I tried to continue finishing my email. Which, is ridiculous. My classmates are sharing their needs, and I’m writing an email. So, somewhat reluctantly, I put my phone away. Then I gave my attention to my classmate. I heard her asking for prayer because part of her family was effected by the earthquake in Mexico; she hadn’t heard from them.

My heart broke. And it continued to break as people shared more issues that sincerely has an effect on their lives. As I continued to process all of the hurt in that single classroom on a Thursday morning, I couldn’t help but think about all of the other pain that I know others are feeling. Earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires and the unspoken things that so many of us struggle with. This all consumes our thoughts. But only when it affects us.

I have allowed myself to become so busy that I miss the pain of others. I miss seeing the ways that they are hurting and needing support. I think a lot of us do this. Go from class to class and thing to thing without ever seeing those that we pass on the way. Sure, we might say hi. But we don’t see them. We don’t take the moment and wholeheartedly give our attention to that person.

I wish this were different. I wish that we had the courage to stop the person that we might think is struggling; the courage to simply be there, if only for a moment, and feel their pain.

I’ve decided to make that wish come true. I don’t want to miss out on the pain of another. I want them to feel cared for. To feel seen. But what does that look like? How do we go about reaching out to a person when we are on the way to our next thing? Honestly, I don’t have the answer. However, I do have two suggestions.

I’m not an incredibly empathetic person. It’s never really been a strength of mine.That doesn’t mean that I entirely lack the capacity to feel another’s pain. Feeling another’s pain takes two things that all of us can do. First, we have to listen. We have to truly commit time to hearing what the other person is saying. This is difficult to do. It’s hard to shed our busyness and truly attend to what another person is going through. But we have to try. We need each other to try. Living in community means attempting to feel the pain of another by listening.

Second, we have to care. This one seems pretty obvious, and it’s arguably required to even be able to listen. But I think we miss it sometimes. I think that if we really cared, we’d walk up to the person and ask them if they’re okay. I think if I really cared, I’d put my phone away. I’d walk to class with my head up, and look people in the eye as I passed them in the hall or on the sidewalk. I’d really try to see them.

It’s an incredible joy to be able to truly care for another person. If we allow ourselves to listen and care, I believe that we’ll successfully feel the pain of those who need that. We’ll see how much need there is in our respective spheres of influence, and we’ll be able to attend to the hurt found there. My hope is that we can lay aside our busyness and commit to listening and caring for each other. That we become a student body that really sees and feels the pain of each other. If we do this, I truly believe that we will be known by our love for one another.

Trevor Magness – Contributor