One of the many issues here in Nicaragua is the lack of employment. Jobs are scarce and the line to fill those positions is long. In the States, underemployment may be a discussion one can have, but I have found that should one care to work in fast food or some similar field, you can probably find work. Your experience may be different and I am sorry if I generalized to much. Here, that is not the case. There are people who want to work. They are willing to do things many of us would find inconceivable.
Image for a minute if you had some sort of disabilities. Let’s say that you were deaf, or blind, or challenged in such a way that learning new skills was very difficult. This is the story of two such individuals.
I told you before that early New Year’s Day a fire devastated a local institution. The place where people who are often not normally given a chance are given just that. In the days following the fire, I had the opportunity to meet several of the folks who worked at the hammock factory. Two of them were deaf. One of them completely, the other had partially lost his ability to hear.
Now you have a couple of things to picture in your mind’s eye. One is the sadness of their situation. They have families depending on them, bills to pay, and pride in their work which was stolen away in a matter of hours as the embers fell from blazing rafters.
The other might make you laugh as you think about me trying to speak Spanish to people who rely heavily on reading lips. As some of you know, I do not know American Sign Language, apart from the perfunctory greetings, alphabet, and a few key phrases. Even if I did, ASL is different from Spanish sign language. So here we were, drinking smoothies, and trying to communicate. Reading lips, mumbling Spanish, and fumbling signs (on my part) made for an interesting hour or so.
The whole point was they were telling me about their life since their workshop burned down. I was impressed to know that they were confidant and adamant about the return of the mission. They would persevere. They would move forward. They will be better than ever. I would not bet against them.
I began to think about those of us who have the full use of all our senses. Do we really use them all? Do we listen or just hear? Do we see figures and bodies or do we see people, minds, and hearts? I found that there was a depth of insight and understanding in our conversation. They were not bitter. I might have been if in their situation. They were not envious. They were not angry. Most of us feel all of those emotions when events don’t go according to our idea of perfection. I began to think whether or not I utilize my sense of hearing.
Do I spend too much time hearing and not enough time listening? I fear that sometimes I do just that.
Look at the image above and read a paragraph. That paragraph is full of mistakes, bad spelling, and even mixed up words. It’s because our brain has the wonderful power to assimilate information and feed it back our conscious thought in an orderly fashion. I believe that particular ability of our subconscious mind can be a hindrance when it comes to listening. We often think or infer what the other person is saying. We often hear the words but do not understand all the other signals that communicate much more than words. Even worse we anticipate the other person’s words without listening to their full significance.
The Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Paul Simon wrote a beautiful song that contemplates silence in a very noisy world. We have been confronting this problem from the dawn of time. Failing to pay attention because we have so many distractions. We speak when we should be still.
I am so grateful for my ability to hear. I, however, want to improve my ability to listen. I think I can take some lessons from two new friends of mine. I hope you have learned them as well.
Let me tell you about the last thing they taught me. As they were getting up to leave one of my new friends pointed to the sky, pointed to me, and made what looked like a sign of the cross. I looked at them in what must have been a puzzling manner. I looked at the person who could hear and he said, “Dios te bendiga.” I said that I finished all my blogs with basically the same sentiment. I use the plural “los”, but it means the same thing. They said, “We know.” He explained that when he knew that he was meeting with me he read my blogs. I asked which one. He said, “All of them”. Then he smiled and walked away.
Dios los bendiga