Dear Listener,

I’ve been taken by the concept of resiliency. Having been a volunteer listener for over a decade now, I have been moved by how the term comes up amongst volunteer listeners. By listening to people in our community we get to see a side of humanity that does not get acknowledged very often. We get to witness, first hand, the depth of resiliency of the human soul.

It might be an unexpected recognition. Our guests aren’t typically telling us of their perseverance through hard times and restored successes. When someone realizes that we’re actually listening – not judging – they often pour their hearts out and many of the traumas that have befallen them come spilling out unresolved.

So, where’s the resiliency in this?

Good question. But it is palpable, isn’t it. In the midst of some crushingly painful story, there is the person. Right there. Right in front of us (well, of course I’m referring to preCovid times).

The story being told may have nothing at all to do with rising up from difficulties, sorting it all out, and coming through to a better place – which is a common understanding of resiliency. Yet the person sharing is right there. Something amazing within them is holding them up long enough to share with another human being. I have heard many volunteers call this resilience.

When I began an online search on resiliency, I did not find anything similar to what we’ve witnessed – how just sharing of yourself with someone who will listen is an act of resiliency.

But I did find many people who value resiliency as a healthy response to life. One fellow in particular caught my attention: Amit Sood, MD. He is the Executive Director of the Global Center for Resiliency and Well-Being. Okay, how cool is that for a job title?!

In one of his online articles, he lists 9 skills that boost your resilience: composure, patience, optimism, gratitude, acceptance, kindness, sense of purpose, forgiveness, and connection.

Of course when I read this list and the commentary for each skill, it sounds pretty much like a description of a very good listener.

Early on in our service, which celebrates its 14th anniversary later this year, we recognized the reciprocity of respect. We freely offer respect to our guests and we trust they know themselves better than we could ever know them. And in return we have seen it demonstrated that our guests behave with self respect and offer respect back to us at the same time. Though we’ve listened to many people who our community at large considers dangerous, we have experienced respect and even safety when we listen with compassion and real regard for the other.

What had first intrigued me was that resiliency is beautiful and available in everyone just as they are and yet it is not ordinarily acknowledged. Upon learning about Amit Sood, MD and his work, it makes sense that resiliency is another one of those reciprocal qualities like respect.

Volunteer listeners participate in ongoing training. It does make sense that developing resiliency comes with the territory. But it also strikes me that, whatever level of resiliency our volunteer listeners might have, our resiliency is deepened every time we make ourselves available to others as nonjudgmental and compassionate listeners. No one is resilient completely by themselves. Resiliency is reciprocal and it is one more reason listening is important and needed in our society.

Before I sign off, there is another demonstration of resiliency that would be a shame not to acknowledge: after nearly two years of disruption in our face-to-face listening service, our organization is still a passionate and strong one. Almost 20 volunteers showed up for our last meeting. And since our last meeting, many more volunteers have been signing up for our online listening shifts. I credit each individual volunteer for this, but I also credit the particular service that we’ve been called to. Listening, the practice of deep listening, really has boosted our organization’s resilience during these challenging times of the pandemic.

Thank you for listening and thank you for letting the practice of listening form you,

volunteer listener (as wonderful a job title as Dr. Soods’, though quite a bit shorter)