Kindness Week Day 6: Listen with Your Heart

Today’s Kindness Prompt: Listen with your heart.

Earlier today, I listened to gospel artist Jessica Reedy share a bit of her story before performing her song “Better.” She told of going through a difficult period in her life and keeping the pain to herself. She wondered if people could see her pain, if they could look in her eyes and see that she needed help. They couldn’t, and she confessed, “that made me sink lower.”

Her words cut deep.

We are daily walking with people who are privately coping and functioning through ridiculous pain, hoping someone hears their silent pleas. But we are so busy with our own lives or so focused on our own struggles that we don’t hear each other or take the time to notice the cues when others are hurting.

So today, let’s listen. Give little consideration to the “apparent” happiness. Tune in. Listen keenly. Not just to the words people say. Pay attention to their eyes, their body language.

I’m not suggesting that we probe for information. I’m not suggesting that we solve problems. We must learn how to connect and listen without becoming overly curious and without trying to fix things or save people.

Leave the saving to Jesus.

Today, let’s listen for what’s not said; let’s listen with our hearts and show that we care. Sometimes, that’s all a person needs.

Note on today’s image: The watercolor and ink artwork above was created by my Love Notes pal, Trang K. It is entitled “Golden Rose” in honor of the beautiful rose bushes her husband planted for her. She writes that the “pricking just lets me know that I am alive and that is the greatest gift and joy.” She urges, “Embrace life…with thorns and all.”

Just joining Kindness Week? Be sure to check out the previous posts:

Tune in tomorrow for our final Kindness Week post.

In Memoriam…

“Treat the Living Well”

Ceremonies are important. But our gratitude has to be more than visits to the troops, and once-a-year Memorial Day ceremonies. We honor the dead best by treating the living well.  –Jennifer M. Granholm

Soul Work: Making Art of Loving People

“Purple” Rose, Big Spring Park, Huntsville, Alabama. [Altered Photo]

As promised, here’s the “love post” I sent to family, friends, and swappers this year.  The card features an altered rose and a Van Gogh quote.

I found the rose last December showing off in Big Spring Park in Huntsville, Alabama. It was simply gorgeous and many people were pleasantly surprised to find its unexpected beauty.

Van Gogh offers more than a “quotable quote” here.  Instead of making a pithy statement about art, he uses art to challenge our notions of love.  Moving us beyond ideas of love as feelings and romance, he calls us to love in a way that an artist creates.  And that is anything but romantic or fleeting.

When we experience a finished work of art–visual, written or spoken, performed, musical composition–we respond with admiration or distaste without ever fully considering what the artist pours into the work or how gut-wrenchingly vulnerable it makes one to place the inner life on display.

When we truly love people, we are similarly crafting and creating, unveiling our most intimate self and making ourselves vulnerable to the scrutiny, judgement, and sometimes the disdain of others.  Our love for people doesn’t always mean they will love us back and though our natural inclination is to protect ourselves, we must learn to love them regardless…

This point was driven home for me and my little one last week, as he was present when someone disrespected me in a public forum.  Though angry, my little one emphasized that he “admired [my] restraint” because he knows that many people wouldn’t have taken it so calmly.  On our drive home we talked about where that “restraint” comes from.  I was honest with him. Some base part of me could have humiliated the man and “put him in his place,” perhaps deservedly so, but that this man could behave this way suggests that he needs my prayers, not my tongue.  In an instant during the exchange, I paused long enough to hear from God, check myself, and recognize in the offender the child of God whom I am called to love.

Van Gogh is not speaking of simply loving people in our circles, those with whom we already share a heart connection, or those who are easy to love.  Nor is he simply speaking of a general, abstract love for humanity.  The artistry and mastery of love come as a result of loving through challenge and difficulty and loving people who aren’t loving, even people who can be mean and evil.  It comes as a result of seeing them as complex beings who, like a work of art, are more than what we immediately see.

Just as it takes more than a few strokes of the artist’s brush to create a masterpiece, it takes intense soul work and an intimate and constant connection with the Divine to make art of loving people.