IN WARM BOOTS
“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.”
I’ve often wondered if God came to me as He did to Solomon and offered me one virtue in which I could excel, what would I pick? I don’t particularly want to be wise and have all the answers– I already think I do as it is! I would like to say humility, but I’m not humble enough to pick humility as my virtue. I’m a performer and an artist and I think I’d impatiently outgrow it. But lately I’ve been thinking, I would pick the gift of listening. I’m impressed more and more by how hard the world is. I’m stunned by the amount of homeless people in New York City, and by the utter lack of help I have to offer them. In the face of a person with a cardboard sign, I realize, ‘My life is not so hard. I am able to pay rent, buy groceries, and I’m in warm boots.’ But like I said, I’m not humble. I’m not a saint. I do not offer my boots. But what I do have to offer is a freelancer’s schedule, which means I’m usually not in a rush to get somewhere instantly, which means I sometimes have time to listen. So I try to, sometimes, when I’m not afraid, and always awkwardly. I just introduce myself to whoever’s begging and I say, Hi I’m Kathleen, what’s your name?
Maybe listening is my cop-out. I am a Christian and sometimes I feel guilty, like, I should talk to them about Jesus or evangelize or something. To be honest, I don’t want to. It doesn’t feel like my thing. It can feel pushy and awkward and I’ve never figured out how to do it right. But I can listen, and I can listen like how I’d imagine God listens to them, how God listens to me when I call out too.
I went to a documentary showing of “Abortion: Stories Women Tell” at Tribeca Film Festival. I met a women there who was involved with the film, who had a different opinion than my own, and we struck up an instant friendship. And what a joy to meet her, to listen to her in the film, and then to tell her in person how much I appreciated her story. It was a real gift of what listening can be, because it felt so open. Disagreements really don’t have to matter at all.
What is the difference between a play (or movie, or story) written by a playwright who wants to say something, and a play written by a playwright who wants to listen? “Good People,” my current favorite play, is a listening play. I’m proud and tune out the ones who are writing to say something.
I am a hypocrite, I know, and I’ll admit it before you have time to point it out. In person I’m chatty and a big talker and love to talk about myself and hog the air time in a conversation. Also, on paper, onstage, I am frequently guilty of the play that has something to say. So this is my recovery pledge, that I’d like to try to reform myself and be a person who listens instead of one who has something to say. Because then, when it is time to say something, I’ll hopefully be saying what I heard in listening to God, and I’ll still be silent.