Some time ago, as I went grocery shopping in a local store, I came across an older woman with her caretaker. When she saw me going down the aisle as she was coming up, she stopped me and told me that she graduated from Catholic school. She said the sisters were very good to her and that they taught her to truly love God. Her name was Zoe. She asked me my name and then asked me to pray for her. Her very young caretaker was pulling on the grocery cart, gently nudging her to keep going. We parted.
As I turned the corner, this time coming up the aisle and she going down, she saw me again and called out, “Sister! Sister!” I heard the same story all over again. Once more she told me her name and asked mine. Once more her caretaker pulled on her cart to keep going.
This conversation continued throughout ten aisles of the store. Every time she saw me, she reacted as though she saw a long lost friend. Each time, I tried to greet her with love and patience. Admittedly, it was a bit wearing.
When I was in line to pay for the items in my cart, Zoe spied me once more and called out to me. We did not have a conversation since we were too far away from each other. Zoe and her caretaker passed me as I was bagging my groceries on the way out. Her caretaker stopped and apologized about Zoe being such an embarrassment. I said, “It was not an embarrassment at all! Did you hear what Zoe shared? She talked about the sisters in her childhood actually loving her. By me listening to her in each aisle, I she was feeling that love again. The sisters she knew taught her was love was. I was loving her by merely listening.” Now the caretaker was embarrassed! She apologized to me, to which I responded, “I needed to learn that too.”
I could not help thinking of this story as I continue my reflections on listening. According to Kay Lindahl, author of The Sacred Art of Listening,1 “We practice the sacred art of listening by looking for occasions to care.” True caring can take on many forms. It can take the form of correction when warranted or it can lead to self-sacrifice when necessary. It’s all a matter of being open as well as being able to listen to the tiny whisper of the Holy Spirit, who teaches us how to love and how to care.
It’s still all about learning how to listen. But, this time listening that invokes action of the heart!
1Lindahl, Kay. The Sacred Art of Listening: Forty Reflections for Cultivating a Spiritual Practice. SkyLight Paths Pub., 2002. Pg. 62
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness