Wednesday, April 05, 2017
I heard it all the time. Sometimes it came from the mouth of an obnoxious beggar, like Gwo-bouch; but sometimes it came from a boy like Daniel who was 12 years old but looked like he was 8. I heard the phrase come from the mouths of laborers who were working their jobs, from people who came round to our gate on Route de Kenscoff asking for a handout, and from vendors by the One Stop shop whom I'd got to know. I heard it from national friends like Luben, who meant it as a joke. I heard it from prostitutes once they'd accepted that I wasn't going to buy sex from them. I heard it improbably from a portly security guard and even from a well-to-do woman who had just stepped out of her sport utility vehicle.
Hearing, like seeing, is an incidental sense. You can't turn it on and off at will. It just picks up noises and feeds them into your head. It's not enough to see; you have to look. It's not enough to hear, you have to listen.
Listening takes practice. It involves learning to hear better. You learn to hear the desperation in the voice of the teenage girl who tried to sell you a piece of herself like she's done to so many others, and the hunger of the boy who spends his days on the streets because there's no other school his parents can afford. You learn to hear the con in the voice of the man who acts too familiar with you, or whose tale of hardship belies his mien of comfort.
Hearing like that is a tough skill, but it's essential to acquire it. Your only other option is to become bitter, distant and cold and the cost to your soul for that choice is too high to pay.
Copyright © 2017 by David Learn. Used with permission.
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"Sounds of Silence"