When I was a student Social Worker doing my practicum, I worked in the community with street kids. One of the teenagers was impossible to get through to said the other Social Workers despite all efforts on their part. I noticed that he was always reluctant to come indoors preferring to lean against a post or sit on a wall etc.
One particular day he walked into the office swore at everyone and walked out. I followed him into the street, and he refused to speak with me. I had this urge to sit next to him, but I had this nagging voice in my head, you are a hygiene fanatic, are you insane to think you are going to sit with him in the gutter? I sat down beside him in the gutter imagining all the germs coming my way and feeling uncomfortable.
I can’t believe you are sitting next to me in this filthy gutter he said. I just smiled at him; that is all I could do at that moment as I felt the water rush over our feet. He smiled back and poured out his soul to me. I just sat and listened to him, I was a student, and I did not have heaps of answers in those days, and did a lot more listening than speaking.
Finally, he said, you are the first person who has ever listened to what I had to say and thanked me.
My message is; listen to people. You might not think you are doing anything for them, but this young man’s life changed that day. The other Social Workers were amazed at the changes in his life over the next few months and asked me what I said to him. Hardly anything was my reply, I just gave him time and listened to him.
We do not have to wait till Christmas to listen to others, we can do it all year round, isn’t that great.
Yes, I must admit; sitting in the gutter did not fix my germ phobia, but looking beyond myself was a great thing to do that day.