The privilege of being heard

One of the first things I usually notice when volunteering at a food pantry or shelter is how eager the people are to talk. Many times the poverty of not having food and the poverty of not having shelter are accompanied by the poverty of having no one to listen to their stories, no one to care. As much as they appreciate the food I might offer them, they need my ears just as much.

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Recently I was telling a singing colleague about my blog. I tried to summarize its themes and how it fit into my life, and as usual I felt lame describing myself as a “blogger”. This fellow soprano thought for a moment, and told me how envious she was of my audience. “At least you know someone cares what you have to say, that someone is listening.”

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My heart breaks for those who feel unheard, for those who wonder if they don’t matter since they don’t have an audience. While I try to refine my soul so that being heard doesn’t define me, I am still so aware of the blessing and privilege that I have in always having had someone who would listen to me.

In my most tiresome, confused years, I acted out to get people to listen, but there was always someone who saw through my attitude and saw the simplicity of the need I was trying to articulate: Listen to me. Validate me. Know me.

I don’t do a good enough job of responding to this need in other people, but I’m striving to be more present and to listen more fully. This is harder than feeding people, or throwing money at organizations, or throwing words at a page. So I struggle but I try, believing it is the only way to make a return on the unearned privilege of being heard.

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7 Responses to The privilege of being heard

  1. Chrris says:

    Hi Felice:
    Enjoy your blog…received it twice. I am unsure of how I got on your mailing list. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
    Chris from Florida

    • felicemifa says:

      Hi Chris, thanks for commenting. If you did not enter your email address and subscribe to the blog, feel free to remove yourself, no hard feelings! I’m glad you’re here though. I am a singer, teacher, and writer living in New England. I hope you stick around!

  2. As usual, you have uncovered a rock hiding insights that are so very much needed. I immediately thought of two friends with whom I am too often impatient in a listener role. And volunteering last night as a free furniture deliverer for my partner’s church, the recipients were eager, not just to give thanks, but to converse further. I met some wonderful people just by listening.. people whom I may have passed on the street with avoiding eyes, under different circumstances. But in this forced interaction, I enjoyed listening to them and exchanging smiles. The privilege of being heard is certainly a gift that should be shared. You are so very right and so very insightful. Thank you again and keep spreading joy and love.

  3. Oh Margaret, you are so very wise – and it is a privilege to hear you. What you say hear about being heard matters so very, very much. Thank you for living so generously.

  4. Mark Allman says:

    Margaret,
    I do think the best gift you can give to someone at times is to listen to them. People also are very good at knowing if you are really engaged with them or not. You can not fake good listening. Paul Tillich said “The first duty of love is to listen”.

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