Seen and Heard

Recently, I was reminded that seemingly small moments can have a lasting impact. My mother-in-law told me about her visit with a local librarian. They got to know each other, and now the librarian chooses books for her as part of a library outreach program for people who don’t drive. Although the librarian came only once, her visit meant a lot to my mother-in-law.

Every now and again, acquaintances tell me about a time when something I said or did came at exactly the right time. Often, I’m surprised because I don’t remember the moment and wasn’t aware that I’d had any special impact. With that in mind, I try to be gracious when someone I don’t know well wants to talk. Maybe they need to be heard.

I love good tomatoes and there’s one vendor I look for at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, because his tomatoes are consistently good. We have a nodding acquaintance—we know each other’s faces, but not each other’s names.

The last time I saw him, he asked me if I liked the Tennessee Ernie Ford song that the market’s musical entertainer had just played. I agreed that it was a good oldie and recalled that a neighbor friend’s mother used to play it on the stereo.

Then the tomato vendor told me he loves to sing, and he sang a little of the song in a surprisingly rich bass. I complimented him, and he explained that when he was young, a voice teacher taught him to breathe properly. Now he shows the guys in his church choir how to breathe so they won’t strain their voices when they try to sing bass.

As I walked away, I realized that after our longer-than-expected conversation, I had a fuller sense of him as a person. I don’t know if the conversation meant anything to him or not. Maybe he needed to be seen, wanted someone to know that tomato farming was just one dimension of his life. Or maybe he was just bored and feeling chatty.

Either way, I’m glad I listened. There’s a gift to me in that.

5 thoughts on “Seen and Heard

  1. Yes, we never now the true impact we make on others. Which is an excellent reason for being patient and kind with whomever we encounter!

  2. Another heartwarming post .. one that makes me want to be a better person. And you are so right, we never do know how what we say impacts others. Years ago I wrote a heartfelt letter to a friend. She never acknowledged it. Then, years later, when a group of us friends were gathered at a cabin, she mentioned my letter … she said she’d put it in her safe deposit box and told her mom she wanted it read at her funeral. I’m no longer in touch with that friend but I like knowing that my words once touched her in a meaningful way. And please know your words, even when I don’t make a point of acknowledging them, often do the exact same for me.

  3. We rarely know how we touch each others’ lives. It feels good to know some small gesture or remark helped someone in a meaningful way. Even if it is only a smile shared when they really needed it.

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