I volunteer once a week at a medical facility. I spend time with kids as they wait for appointments, reading, talking about the T.V. show on the screen, showing games on a tablet.
It is often the best two hours I spend during the week.
I don’t love it because of what I am doing but for the moments that I connect with whoever I am with. These interactions, conversations, visits aren’t about me telling another parent what I know about reading but listening. Listening to their stories, how they spend their time, their struggles, their dreams and providing a doorway for them and their child to get to where they are going.
When I keep it about the program I tend to be all-business-and-no-heart. Not intentionally missing the point but missing it all the same through my good intentions. Over the past two years of these weekly visits I no longer worry whether or not the parents walk away understanding how critical reading is; instead I want to make sure they walk away believing
I heard them. I listened to them. I saw them.
Today was one of those interactions. I worked with the daughter but I also talked with the mother. I met her in the space as a fellow mother. One who understands how hard it is to parent. I learned that the mother was working a full time job while going to school. What her dreams were, where she wanted her career to go.
What she wanted for her daughter.
If I had pushed what I could provide I never would have heard what she needed. And today- she needed reassurance. Reassurance she was a good mom, she was taking care of herself and her daughter, she was making a difference.
I just listened. Conversation naturally came around to why I was there- not as a social worker but as a reader. The conversation told me this mom already did all the things I would have told her. So I could help her enrich her daughters literacy life in other ways.
But I do believe I wasn’t there today to tell her how to do something; I was there in order to understand how to live a moment.
How to be present in a moment, with another person and hear, really hear, her story.
And that made a difference to me.
That is why our stories matter. That is why we tell our stories. That is why we ask other people for their story.
It teaches us how to interact and engage without agenda, without a point to make, without a purpose other than to just be.
Did you hear a story today? Did you tell your story today? Did you allow yourself to be present without agenda?
If not, start now. Be in this moment, with whomever is next you, ask the story of their day if they are familiar to you and if it is a stranger find some common experience to know them deeper.
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