A  Magnetic and Strange Thing

I’ve known Carolyn for seven and a half years. Our relationship began over a cup of coffee. Carolyn was the one ordering it and I was the one making it. Many of our initial interactions felt like a scene out of the movie Groundhog Day—I asked the same question each day, and each day she offered me a verbal picture of her life. Over time, though, through those seemingly routine exchanges, I realized we were becoming friends.

We share a love for the Midwest where we both grew up, though living now in the land of “Bless your heart!” and sweet tea. We commiserate over the joys and heartaches of raising children. We love words and don’t mince them. With each short conversation, something grew between us as we listened.

One day, her answer to my by-now familiar inquiry revealed something I hadn’t realized my listening had fostered. Trust.

“I just gave my mom her first dose of morphine.”

Carolyn’s mom was dying of cancer and she knew she could depend on me to listen to this difficult part of her story that she needed to tell.

Faith tends to come up in conversations about death. When it did, I gathered up my courage and shared tiny bits of my perspective as Carolyn gave me glimpses into her grief. We discovered we both love Jesus, but have different feelings about His people and His church.

Because I had grown to love Carolyn as a person, it never occurred to me that what she had to say about her faith could be an opportunity for me to make a point. I cared about her more than I cared about making sure she knew where I stood. Our honest exchanges taught us that listening had fostered trust, love, and mutual respect, and that wasn’t worth damaging with an agenda.

As I reflect on the different experiences we’ve walked through together since that day, I realize that listening accomplished far more than anything I could’ve said or done to intentionally cultivate Carolyn as a friend. I now know the power of genuine interest communicates more than words.

Listening communicates God’s love in profound ways and opens up opportunities for connection. Shel Silverstein said, “Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward.” My friendship with Carolyn is proof of this. She moved toward me when she realized I cared enough to listen, and I moved toward her when I realized she cared enough to share from her heart.

What connection awaits you if you’ll choose to listen?

Jenn Nahrstadt
Q Place Friend

This article has 3 comments

  1. Carolyn

    God gives everyone special gifts and puts them in circumstances where they can foster and use them.

  2. Cheri

    Beautiful, Jenn!! You’ve always been a great writer and what a terrific reminder about listening!