Active Listening

I have a beautiful new friend. She has lovely brown eyes and long blond hair. She has five gorgeous children. Three of them share her skin color. Two of them do not. Those two little people who have different colored skin have been through so much. They were orphaned in a country that could barely care for them. They had to transition from one country to another one that is so very different in almost every conceivable way. They were eagerly gathered into a family that loves them, but they were not equipped with the ability to comprehend such love. They were thrust into a new culture that is vastly different from their own. They had to adjust to new siblings, new rules, new Every. Single. Thing.

My new friend has just shared some of the progress these kiddos have made. They are learning. Learning what it means to have a safe place to stay. Learning that some people don’t leave. Learning that rules serve a purpose. Learning that they are loved unconditionally.

Frequently, I look at a picture she shared with me. In the picture she is kneeling in the grass beside her adopted daughter, and for the very first time her daughter is allowing her to comfort her. Lightly, ever so gently, my friend’s arm is draped over her daughter’s shoulder as the little girl cries. Six months it has taken to get to this point. To the point where she is even allowed to try and make her little girl feel better when she is hurting. Six months to get to the point where she can touch her in love.

As I read reports of what happened in Texas, I can’t help but think of her and all 5 of her children. I am not trying to make a political statement. Regardless of your opinion on what happened and why – it appears to be completely true that the three children who have light colored skin would be at much less risk than the two who have darker skin. She has to be fearful for these kids who have stolen her heart and taken up every bit of energy she’s had for six months. No mother should live in fear because her children have a certain color of skin.

I believe that people should listen when police officers give them instructions. I know that most of us do not understand the entirety of what happened. What we do know is that our country is experiencing racial tension. The evidence is all around us. Marches, protests, prayer meetings, and numerous talks between leaders occur frequently.

For the sake of my new friend, and the many who are in her position, it is imperative that we start discussing this issue with less emotion and more thought. We need to let down our preconceived notions and attempt to see the view of the person on the other side.

My fourth graders learn about active listening. Active listening requires that the listener is not only hearing the words but thinking about them. It also requires that they are not formulating a response to what is being stated. They are just listening. That is my goal right now – to actively listen to what all sides are saying so that I can do my part to help ease this tension.

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