He hears his calling: listening

By Paul Harris

Have you ever wondered why you were put on this earth?

It took me 23 years to realize my purpose, which occurred while I was playing bingo last Thursday. No, this is not going to delve in to another great date column, although I still encourage you to go out and give it a shot.

But as everyone else around me was shouting “bingo!” I became a little irritated. I rarely win anything. I have gone to bingo at lease five or six times and have yet to call bingo. I started to wonder, “Why does everyone else have all of the luck?”

But after the game, with my lip nearly on the floor from my pouting, I realized my purpose.

I am a listener.

One of the ladies I had been talking to during the night summoned me. She told me that her sister, whom we had been playing with, had been sick. If they had waited one more day to take her sister to the hospital, her sister would have died.

She then told me about how great it was to see her sister out and about and enjoying life.

I am not sure why she told me that. We had been talking, but there was nothing I said that could have triggered it. But this is not the first time I have been caught off-guard by a story.

During my sophomore year of college, I was busy grocery shopping and trying to kill some time before my roommate got off of work at Dillons. I was picking up some oranges when I heard a voice pipe up and say, “The prices of these oranges are just outrageous.” I responded with a typical, “Yeah, that’s crazy” and began to walk away.

The woman the voice belonged to then informed me that high grocery taxes in Kansas keep the food prices so high. I was from Indiana and still looking to kill time. (That and I also have a really hard time telling people that I need to go.) So I stopped and I listened.

We discussed a few topics, but eventually she told me a harrowing story of her time as a spy during WWII. The story was filled with a near-death experience at the hands of a Russian spy. I have no idea whether what she told me was true. I was merely a listener.

There were points when I wanted to leave. We all get impatient. We think our time is more important than someone else’s, even if we have no place to go.

But for the most part, I learned a lot about this lady. I cannot tell you her name, nor could I tell you where she was from, but I could give you a rough re-enactment of our discussions.

I have had other similar encounters. I was coming out of Commerce Bank on Poyntz earlier this year and I turned to find an old lady following behind. So I held the door for her.

She told me how polite I was. She then continued on about how impolite my generation is. But it’s what she told me next that really got my attention. It turns out that this lady was a Holocaust survivor. I wish I could remember everything she told me, but meeting a Holocaust survivor is something in itself.

It kind of reminds me of that country song by Billy Currington, “People Are Crazy.” In the song, Currington tells about a time he and another guy, whom he had never met before, discuss an array of topics while at a bar.

Currington and the man depart, then one morning Currington wakes up to find the man on the front page of the obituary section in the newspaper. Although they had just spoken that one night, Currington ends up inheriting a million dollars from the guy.

While it is very unlikely that you will inherit a million dollars by listening to a stranger, you will have equally lucrative gifts: a good story and a great lesson.

It is going to take me some time to figure out how to take those lessons and those stories and use them for something other than entertainment. It may take me another 23 years to figure that out.

After talking to that lady at the bingo hall, though, I realized I could finally and truthfully yell “bingo!”

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