There is a lot of talk about catch up at the moment. Families and friends catching up with one another. Businesses catching up on missed opportunities. Students catching up on missed lessons. What is clear is that everyone is being affected by this pandemic in different ways. Some families have talked more than they ever normally would whilst others haven’t seen each other for nearly 12 months. The nature of some businesses has meant that they have thrived in the conditions of lockdown, others have been brought to their knees. Some students have made great progress in their home learning, others have not only stood still but slipped backwards. We know that we are not the same and the pandemic seems to have succeeded in highlighting those differences.
This week, I have found myself at the confluence of three very different voices, but the message is similar. We need to talk less and listen more. We need to understand the situation of the other person, before leaping to tell them what they should do.
Voice 1 – The writer of the Proverbs (chapter 17, verses 27 & 28) whose words were read as part of Wednesday’s chapel. “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” I have sometimes been described and the second half of this passage gives a clear indication of why that might be!
Voice 2 – Former British & Irish Lions and Wales rugby union captain, Sam Warburton who spoke to the school on Wednesday afternoon in a webinar. Mr Warburton told us that he would tell the referee that he would only speak to them three times in a match. The effect was clear, if this player is using one of the three credits now, it must be important. Discernment increases our understanding of what is important and the likelihood of our voice being heard.
Voice 3 – Former President of the United States, Barack Obama, in his his book “A Promised Land”. Early in the book, Mr Obama is describing a political race he is taking part in. “Talking to voters in the early days of the campaign, I tended to address the issues I was running on . . . . Over time, though, I focused more on listening. And the more I listened, the more people opened up.”
What is required of us in this game of catch up? I think we need to listen more, so that people open up about where they are. I think we need to talk less, so that we may be discerning and taken seriously. If we can do these things, we may find the ingredient that seems to be missing from so much discourse, empathy. There is so much more that can be said on this topic, but . . .