The Helping Ear

We live through hard times and the Christmas toys and fireworks on New Year’s Eve cannot but temporarily change the dominant grey hue of our reality.  We go through a lot of changes, rapid, weird, negative, unacceptable and mostly unbearable.  At work, in business, in the global or local macroeconomics.  In the streets, in traffic, in crowds.  At home with the family, friends, acquaintances.  And we all bravely confront feelings and sensations euphemistically called unpleasant: nausea, carelessness, fear, concern, frustration, pessimism, pressure, despair, loneliness.

Loneliness is the key word of this monologue.  Even a linguistic analysis sets it apart.  There are many other words around the feeling of being alone: solitude, misanthropy, alienation.  It seems though that “loneliness” describes best the only reaction that seems to be available these days – we alone get lonely.   Visually this word brings me a picture of a man in a tight position that banishes any feeling, emotion or relationship.  Often we discuss about the two main ways we react to threatening stimuli: fight or flight.  Loneliness seems to be the third way in which we don’t have even the energy to run, let alone to fight.  We just bow stiffly and numbly.

It is winter holiday season with joy that is either shouted in malls or smiled within the family.  It is the season we gather around people with whom we share family or friendship relationships in order to give each other in a dazzling and/or costly merry-go-round gifts, dinners and carols.  It is the season set aside for socializing.

Now is the time of gifts.  Let us endow each other, without response or return.  Let us offer each other the gift of listening, of our auditory support to the ones still willing to talk about their problems.  Let us make available our ear, just the ear.  During this period when we are all overwhelmed by the upcoming Mayan or financial cataclysm we all have our problems, but the ear does not obstruct the attention we give to our own problems.

Active listening is a trait of leaders.  This time I urge you that in any situation, professional or personal, to endow each other with immaterial, durable, priceless gifts without price tags: attention, patience, respect, tolerance, understanding.  Let us offer (at least) our helping ears even when our hands are full of our own fate.

 “The true measure of character is the anonymous manner by which a person treats others that cannot give anything in return.”