So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it. — Jiddu Krishnamurti
IN TODAY'S SESSION... the children heard about Unitarian Universalist minister Don Robinson, who partnered with community leaders in Washington, D.C.'s inner city to create an after-school program that responds to the needs of children and youth. The group practiced intent listening with a counting exercise and by listening to a partner talk about a pet peeve. They made "I'm All Ears" hats as a reminder to use "air power," to listen fully and deeply. You may wish to use this hat in a family context.
EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER. How well do members of your family listen to one another? What are situations in which you feel you listen especially well? In what situations would you like to listen or be listened to better? When is it particularly difficult to offer or receive focused attention? When you are in conversation, what signs, such as eye contact or reflecting back your words to you, make you feel you are being heard?
FAMILY GAME. Try a game from this session that invites participants to pay extremely close attention to the rest of the group, sharing their voice only when it will not interrupt someone else. The objective of the game is simple: With everyone standing in a circle, individuals call out sequential numbers. For instance, Alyssa says "one," Kyle says "two," Nara says "three," etc. However, any time a person speaks over another person, the count starts over. The object is to pay such close attention to everyone in the group that you sense when there is empty space into which you can speak. The goal is to count to ten in this fashion. If the group accomplishes this goal within your available time, try the game again, this time with all family members closing or covering their eyes.
FAMILY ADVENTURE. As a family, choose someone you would really like to listen to and learn from. This might be an elderly relative, a friend or neighbor who has immigrated to this country, a congregation member you admire, or a doctor, postal worker, or shopkeeper you see regularly whose story you would like to hear. Invite the person to share their personal story with you, and ask if you may use a recording device to preserve what they say. Brainstorm some questions before the visit to get the conversation started, and to keep it flowing.