Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Your Life Story–Do You Hear What I Hear?

I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I'm going to learn, I must do it by listening. - Larry King

Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd have preferred to talk. – Doug Larson

Some years ago, I was driving home from work when for some reason I felt strongly compelled to stop into a retirement facility in the area.  It was an odd feeling since I did not have any friend or family member in residence there but I felt it was important to stop by anyway.

After arriving at the facility, I wandered around the grounds, not really engaging with anyone while simultaneously wondering why I was there when suddenly my eyes locked with the eyes of an elderly gentleman sitting alone.

For reasons unknown to me until today, I walked over to him, introduced myself and sat beside him.  He introduced himself as Mr. Green and within minutes he began telling me his Life story.

Mr. Green had outlived his children, his wife and his siblings and was spending the final days of his Life alone at this facility.  He told me stories of growing up in a small outport in Newfoundland, of the days where he would row more than 5 miles one way every day across the harbor (and the same distance back later in the evening) to visit the woman who would later become his wife and the victories and challenges he had experienced raising his family in a small town.

The few hours I spent with him went by quickly and he thanked me for taking the time to listen to his “silly stories”.  I in turn thanked him for sharing with me the most powerful moments of his Life and then I left.

And just as I couldn’t explain at the time why I had stopped by that day, for reasons equally unknown to me, I never returned to visit Mr. Green again.

That interaction took place 30 years ago, remaining dormant and forgotten in my memory until a conversation with someone today about the importance of listening brought the events back to me as if they had happened yesterday.

The power in our story

Mr. Green thought his collection of memories were merely silly stories when in fact they were a beautiful compilation of a Life well-lived.

A Life like his.

A Life like yours.

As he told me his stories, he saw each of them as expressions of stand-alone, unrelated events.  I saw them as an unfolding tapestry of connected events, each event in his Life clearly and obviously equipping him for the next event in his Life.

In speaking to someone about his story today, they made an observation that I thought was powerful.  The observation was this:

After we have survived or experienced a significant event in our Life, is there a hint of our future that is provided to us?

Do we listen to the messages that such events present to us?

Do we see the connection between the events in our Lives?

I found this to be an emotionally stirring series of questions.  << Yes, we tough, cold, ruthless Wall St. ***holes have been known to get misty-eyed in coffee shops.  Please don’t tell anyone – we have a reputation to protect. >>

Mr. Green did not see the connection between the events nor did he see how each event equipped him with new knowledge, wisdom and growth in his character, values and morals to prepare him for the next event.

He didn’t see the importance of the lessons he had acquired through the living of his Life.

He did not understand the true value of the events he had experienced.

He did not fully comprehend the value of his Life story.

And he didn’t understand the impact of sharing his stories with a young stranger who wandered into the retirement facility that day for unknown reasons.

Unknown to me until today ……

It is true that each of us is nothing more than a collection of stories.  It is these stories that define the legacy that we leave behind when we have long-since departed this place.

Our stories represent our perception and expression of our experiences both significant and mundane.  While we are the primary author of our story, many people are brought into or forced into our lives to contribute material to our story while we are simultaneously invited or forced to contribute material to theirs, creating the collection of comedies and tragedies that form the essence of who we are.

Many of our stories are written in the public eye.

Many are written seemingly in private when we think that no one is watching.

Regardless of how we write our stories, there is someone out there who is modeling our behavior or looking up to us in some way.

In those moments, we are not just writing our story.

We are creating or providing the material by which others are writing their story as we knowingly or unknowingly participate as coauthors.

The Bottom Line

Remember when we used to take our high school yearbooks and collect the autographs of our fellow classmates, creating a permanent memory of who they were?

In a similar way, people leave indelible marks on our hearts and Spirits as we make our way through Life, adding material to our Book of Life, inviting us to contribute to theirs or one person being forced to accept the contribution of another.

And as we write our collective stories together, what matters is that we are listening to the story that our Lives are expressing about us, since we never know who is modeling our Life or looking up to us for wisdom, knowledge or inspiration.

The questions then become ….

Are you listening to your story and the impact on others?

Are you listening to the stories of others and their impact on you?

Are you listening at all?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


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  1. I dig it, Harry-

  2. Fantastic read ... as usual.

  3. excellent stuff Harry. You may be wall street....but your still a Newfie.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Lee ... The Newfoundlander part never leaves us. :-)