This is my story of how listening to people’s stories changed me and my life. I hope it will inspire you to be kinder with those around you.
On September 22nd, 2013, 9:17 of a sunny and crisp Sunday morning, my father died. The heart attack was not entirely unexpected, but sudden nonetheless. This incident changed my life forever.
I was away from home, studying in another city. The last time I had spoken to my father was 5 days before, and we had talked about the weather.
I got through it well enough. There were pain and guilt and a lot of questions, but the hardest part when one is suffering is not in the pain itself. It is when there is no one to share all that anguish with.
Sometimes people need to vent, cry and create their own monologue, find comfort in their own words. They do not need someone to fix things, or give them advice, or hold their hand.
Sometimes all anyone needs is someone to listen.
After I dealt with my own grief, the new person who had emerged from the aftermath resolved to never, if possible, allow any other human being to experience their suffering in solitary silence.
I can only muse and wonder whether the fact that I found a website called “7 Cups of Tea” a while later, was a stroke of luck, or something bigger.
Anyone can become a listener to people’s stories on 7CoT, and I promptly joined that world of unparalleled compassion and kindness, fresh-faced and nervous for my first chat. The listeners accept members or guests request and help them unburden their minds via basic Active Listening techniques.
We give the people who come there a kind shoulder, a safe place to vent, and most importantly, to be heard.
After all, in a world like today’s, where everyone scrambles and rushes nonstop when do we even have time to listen? When do we get the chance to speak out and free everything that weighs down heavy on our hearts?
Time passed and I grew as a listener. I heard people’s stories of strength, joy, and pain. I have helped people through grief, heartbreak, personal growth, anxiety issues, and through the much more complex struggle of finding their own way in this world and conquering their fear.
And I loved every minute of it.
What I loved, even more, was the community itself. Thousands of people, all there for each other, communicating and building, the eevery day during their free time (the site is a volunteer activity), a bridge that can connect every person.
The existence of such a place where one can listen to other people’s stories, and many others like it, makes me fill up with joy and hope. In a world where news gets more and more discouraging and everybody hurts, certain people understand that it is that very pain that can serve as our transcendental connection.
Empathy, compassion, understanding, they all stem from similar hurtful experiences. They all lead to love, and love leads to acceptance.
All that is more than enough incentive to apply that logic to our everyday lives. Everybody hurts, but they do not have to hurt alone. 7CoT serves as a reminder of the greater image that we all can lose sight of: that no human being on Earth exists as a solitary unit.
We all coexist and create the whole of humanity, and as such, our limitations are superficial. We are not different from one another, and nothing really divides us. In the end, we all feel the same emotions, we are all confused and lost and looking for some peace of mind.
It’s the simplest and yet, most elusive lesson in the world: Be kind. Be accepting. Love.
All this got me thinking about how many of the world’s misfortunes are based on people not listening to each other, fighting over misunderstandings and insisting on how their logic is on the winning side.
Yes, we all fight for our righteous goal, and we all serve a logic which we are more than happy to spread by talking about it.
But do we ever listen?
This is how alienation can lead to animosity. We turn a deaf ear, focus on how different we are, and keep on being divided.
So, next time you can, try to remember the basic principles of being a good listener:
Empathy, understanding, patience, and an open mind.
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
― Ernest Hemingway
by Sofia P.