Like many people I know, I think that I oftentimes take for granted the support I receive from my friends and family. Whenever I have a problem, I talk with a friend and we try to find a way to work it out. It wasn’t until last summer that I was reminded of the value of these chances to vent or speak my mind. That’s when I finally believed in the importance of a listening ear.
One of my best friends, Liz, and I went on a class trip over the summer. Among the other students on the trip was a senior who had just started coming to our school the year before. He had a very different personality and had become a sort of outcast. I’ll admit that even I was a little nervous being around him. Though he wasn’t exactly her friend, Liz was on good terms with him, and he would spend some of the trip with us.
On the last day of the trip, he became upset when one of the girls in our group told him she didn’t want to talk to him. Liz and I found ourselves listening to his life story. It turns out that he had always been picked on by other students, and had to keep transferring schools. He had eventually started to put up a wall around himself because he was afraid that someone would hurt him again. I sat silently, listening and occasionally nodding my head. I couldn’t believe that all of these things had happened to him, and he never had anyone to talk to about it.
When he was done talking, the room was silent for a while. He finally thanked us for listening to him. He said, even though he knew we didn’t know what to say, hearing himself talk helped him straighten out his thoughts. He knew what he needed to do.
At first, I was surprised by his thanks. I had hardly said a word during his entire story. What good could that have done? But then, as I thought about it, I realized that there had been times when I, too, had simply vented for a few minutes to my friends from time to time. They didn’t say much either, but just knowing that someone was listening, getting the chance to let out all of my feelings, whether they be happiness, fear, or anger, made all the difference.
Giving advice can be helpful, but in the end, it’s the listening ear that holds the greatest potential and meaning.
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