I saw an article the other day about an 11-year old boy who sets up a table in the NYC subway and gives five minutes of life advice to passersby for two dollars. He was nervous the first day, but discovered to his surprise that people lined up to talk with him.
The only thing that surprises me about this story is that a young child has learned a valuable life lesson that many have yet to grasp fully: it is only by listening and helping others feel that they have been heard can healing and connection occur.
For example, several years ago I was on a Hertz rental bus on my way to the Los Angeles airport after a week of consulting. I struck up a conversation with the bus driver, who was from Mexico and missed his family dreadfully. He shared stories about his family and his life in Mexico with me while we waited for everyone to board the bus. As fate would have it, I was leaving from the last terminal of the route, and when I got off, he gave me a hug and thanked me for listening. Then he paced the bus to my walking speed, and honked and waved goodbye until I went through airport security. He simply needed someone to listen to him to help him feel better.
It’s not just in large metropolises such as New York City or Los Angeles where this is true. I have found this to be true everywhere I go, including in my little village in Guatemala.
A few weeks ago, I was walking downtown, and a young woman called out to me. I had met her in briefly in town a few days prior. We started talking, and before I knew it, she had shared her life story with me. She had gotten married while she was at university, and soon was pregnant. Against all odds, she completed school while pregnant and then while a new mother.
She described a number of hardships her family was going through, and then, out of the blue, asked me how old I was. It seemed an odd question to me, until she said that her mother was in the United States for the past five years, working and trying to support her family. She hadn’t been able to talk to her mother for a long time. He father was working in Guatemala City, eight hours away.
The pressure on this young woman was overwhelming for her, and she desperately needed a parental figure to comfort her. I stayed with her and hugged her as she cried, while her little daughter watched with a concerned brow. Once she had released her initial emotions of fear and stress, we talked about the problems she was facing. And in that little bit of time that I spent with her, we connected and she was able to heal from the fear she had been feeling.
Everyone needs to be heard and listened to. Who can you connect with today?