I Believe in the Power of Listening

Heather - Goshen, Indiana
Entered on December 10, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: humanism

I believe that everyone should spend fifteen minutes listening to a vet.

My adopted brother, Tim, enlisted in the Marines not a week after two of my friends had finished serving. Thrilled to finally have a holiday season with everyone safe at home, I was dismayed when he called to tell me he would be leaving for boot camp and would not be home when I got there. Didn’t he know how many people were dying in this war? Didn’t he realize many of them were civilians? Had he given any thought what it would do to the family if something happened to him? I was furious with him.

Tim’s weeks in boot camp passed and he was home again while I was back at school unable to visit before he left. When his six month tour was changed to nine, my adopted mom called to let me know and not so subtly mentioned that I should have tried harder to talk to him. Turns out my brother thought I was mad enough not to care and didn’t plan to write to tell me what was happening.

That weekend I took the time to write and ask him why he would enlist. For three weeks I waited for a return letter, practically stalking the mailman as he sorted my building’s mail each afternoon. My anticipation faded as I began to wonder if he would write at all. Getting the mail became a miserable experience. One day, after I had completely given up on hearing from him, I methodically opened the mailbox, grabbed the stack from inside, and shoved the door shut, anxious to run inside and escape the cold wind of an Indiana winter. When I got inside and saw the envelope with his handwriting all I could do was stare.

He had written just as he would have explained in person. “Look sis, I know you think I made a mistake, but if you would just listen…” He went on to explain that he knew his little sister would need care for the rest of her life since she had been born with several disabilities. He wanted to be able to assume care of her, but would need a job that provided good health care and stability. The military could give him that. If I had listened, I would have known he had been terrified overseas. I would have known that he prayed every night I would forgive him.

I realize not everyone has a brother in the military. However; everyone does have a person who they could learn so much from if they simply took the time to listen. Anyone who truly wants peace on a global level needs to first start by examining their own interactions with other people and take advantage of what it is that each person can teach them. Only by creating an environment of peace and understanding on an individual level can we truly expect to do the same on a global level.