Jun
19

I learned something new yesterday…..

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Photo: Gift of Jack Leishman, Ashland, OR

Dare to love yourself..
As if you were a rainbow..
With gold at both ends.
~ Aberjhani

I learned something new yesterday. At 46, that doesn’t happen every day so I thought I’d share it.

I had a phone call first thing in the morning in which the person asked me how I was and what was going on in my life … and he genuinely cared about my answer and listened to me deeply. Pretty soon, I was in tears. Something had happened on Sunday evening that was bothering me – just a little I thought. But as soon as someone really cared to ask what was going on in my life, up welled the tears.

It was a little embarrassing a) because I don’t know the person very well and b) I’m British and all public displays of emotion fall in the realm of mortifying. I’ve lived in the U.S. for over 20 years and I’m definitely getting better but I still can’t bring myself to cheer for my kids from the sidelines of soccer matches. I’m envious of those parents who holler and whoop it up. But given my cultural and genetic base, I’m pretty sure that kind of unbridled public enthusiasm will have to be another in lifetime for me.

Anyway, I finished the phone call feeling a little mortified and mystified. I was struck by the power of a compassionate questioner to bring me to tears in the space of minutes about something that I could have easily overlooked for weeks.

Luckily, on my to-do list yesterday was to write about a support group for people with HIV/AIDS that has been in existence for 25 years and is led by a Franciscan friar. I wrote

XX has evolved by asking the question “What do people need in the moment?” and responding to that need……. XX is not an easy place to get to and yet some people drive an hour and a half each way to our meetings for years. When we ask why, people tell us that this is the only place where they feel truly accepted. XX is foremost a community of people who care deeply for each other regardless of their past mis-steps, or current anger, sadness, or suffering. In the modern world, this kind of witnessing and acceptance is a rare and precious gift.”

As I was crafting this, I remembered a story that I heard on NPR last week. A reporter went to a town square in Iran and asked people about the upcoming elections. A large crowd gathered and people were so eager to have their say that they jostled each other and interrupted the interpreter.  Soon, the police came and took the reporter and his crew to the police station. But, a woman followed them into the station and said “wait, you haven’t heard my story.”

Our need to be heard and accepted is fundamental. It is a core, base, elemental. At some level, without it we are incomplete and bereft.

And yet, it is so rare.

We are so busy and so focused on our own worries, concerns, and ambitions that we don’t listen to each other anymore. When I was growing up in England, I would spend hours talking with an elderly neighbor or great aunt and they would listen patiently or tell me stories of their lives during the wars and depression. But today, older people are separated, isolated, and alone – and we are starving for one the most beautiful gifts they have to offer, the time and patience to listen.

We will drive hours to be in a place where we feel loved and accepted, walk into a police station in a repressive society to tell our story, or start crying when we experience being truly heard by a stranger.

I think at the core of it is the experience of being loved – even the parts of ourselves we don’t love ourselves.  When someone has the grace to hear us, see us, and love us – even the vulnerable , weak, and ugly parts of ourselves, we are deeply touched and thirsty for more.

But what has this got to do with grants? Everything.

I was going to write about collaborations or writing succinctly, but really, this tops it all.

Got a problem with a peer in a collaboration? Ask yourself “what do they need?” and ask them “what’s happening in your life?” and just listen…and listen…and love…and listen. Then ask “How can I support you?” and they will know that you mean it.

Wondering how to get community buy-in for your project?  Ask yourself “what do they need?” and ask them “what’s happening in your life?” and just listen…and listen…and love…and listen. Then ask “How can I support you?” and they will know that you mean it.

Need a high-powered executive to join your board?  Ask yourself “what do they need?” and ask them “what’s happening in your life?” and just listen…and listen…and love…and listen. Then ask “How can I support you?” and they will know that you mean it.

Feeling pushed against the wall with deadlines or worried about keeping the ship afloat?

See if you can find a friend, colleague, or an elder to just listen as you get it all off your chest. And if you can’t find anyone and just want to let it go…write down what you’re going through and email me at jana@grantschampion.com.

“Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within another person.”

 

Rachel Naomi Remen

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