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imagesIt was the typical, “May I take your order?” Sure! I ordered three beverages – one for Don, one for myself, and one for Lucy the Puppy-girl. The summer weather finally gave us a reprieve from the heat and we took the opportunity to walk to our local coffee shop. Lucy loves to drink her water out of the plastic ‘grande’ cup. No ice please, and save the lid for someone else. Really, she doesn’t care. By the way, we haven’t been able to teach her the finer points of using a straw. It’s something about the oral musculature of a mature canine that makes the straw an impossibility. You can save the straw for someone else, too.

The barista smiled at me, thanked me for my order, which, by the way, included directions for Lucy’s plain cup of water and a request for ‘room’ in my iced coffee. Coffee without cream is like bread without butter. It’s okay, but it definitely falls short of being that spectacular blend of great taste and complete personal comfort. You know, that ‘ahhhhh’ moment when the first taste passes you lips. I am a Minnesota girl. Believe me, cream and butter make our Scandinavian hearts happy!

One of our beverages was completed as requested. One out of three. One. Only one.

Now, the caveat here is that the coffee shop was not crowded. I was the only one in line to order. Another customer was waiting for a beverage and the drive through line was virtually nonexistent.

Only one of our beverages was completed as requested!

This in and of itself is not a big deal. Through conversation we eventually reached a place where I received the drinks I ordered and life went on.

The thing is, only one out of three – and I might add, three simple drinks – was initially prepared correctly. This had nothing to do with the skill of the barista. It had everything to do with the ability to listen. Listening is becoming a lost art.

Take the evening news, for example. Conflict is main topic. How often do you see someone yelling to be heard about something? How often do we hear about this side or that side or some side that disagrees with something someone else says or does? It’s rampant! Whether it’s about racial relations; political agendas; a neighborhood riff; changes in educational structures, boundaries or agendas; or a myriad of other person-to-person conflicts, the method of dealing with it is to cling to one’s own perspective while devaluing the beliefs, thoughts, or rights of another.

Sometimes, in the midst of conversation or conflict, we don’t even know what the other perspective is simply because we refuse to listen.

Cell phones and ear buds connect us to the world, yet we tend to spend our time listening to things that we already agree with. Is this really listening? Or are we simply reinforcing what we already believe?

Facebook posts and memes are often followed by visceral, angry comments from those who disagree and feel free to hit out words on a keyboard that let the person who offended our sensibilities know how naive, silly, uneducated or just plain stupid they are. Yet, did we actually read with the desire to understand a view point different than our own? Or was the intention to prove how right we are at another’s expense?

Who we are and what we think come from a lifetime of experiences. Some folks allow those situations to become a wall around their understanding that brick by brick…thought by thought…constructs a limited perspective of indignant self-righteousness. We have all been around those who refuse to listen objectively to concepts that are not familiar to them. They become closed minded, encapsulated in an understanding of the world that belongs only to them and those who agree with them.

The thing is, we live in a huge, messy community of people who have even bigger and messier life experiences to draw on. Those big, messy experiences lead to understandings about life that are as different as the colors in a jumbo box of Crayola’s. Any child knows that weaving those colors together in and around a design or picture can lead to something better than any individual color offers by itself. Yet, the colors have to work together in harmony or they will become a dissonant hodgepodge.

Life is like those colors. We all have something to offer. Our beauty as a society is dependent on weaving our diverse ideas, beliefs and perspectives into a tapestry that represents the diversified hopes of all who walk this crazy path called, ‘life’.

To do this, we need to listen. Maybe it starts with a coffee shop barista learning to look a weary customer in the eye and hear the words that make up a simple order. Maybe it’s a conversation between friends about political beliefs that are diametrically opposed, but each one is intent on understanding the other and how they came to believe what they know to be true. Maybe it’s a journalist who attempts to capture both sides of a emotionally charged story. Maybe it’s simply letting our ego’s take a break long enough to realize that someone else has a perspective that we must consider.

Maybe…maybe…maybe, it’s about listening quietly and intently. Listening as if there is nothing else we need in the moment except to understand the voice of another.