Is anybody there? Does anybody care?

I’ve been thinking the last few days about what used to be called the “art” of listening.

There’s a lot of talking going on today, but I’m not sure there’s much listening…real listening.

There’s a song in the musical 1776 that for various reasons over the last few years really resonated with me. It’s titled “Is Anybody There?”

Sometimes I wonder if anybody is there…if anybody cares. “Discussions” on so many topics–so many levels–seem to be nothing more than hot air being spewed out with nobody listening, because everyone has their minds already made up. I know, that’s an exaggeration…but just think about it for a minute.

In the United States we narrowly avered a recent government shutdown over budget discussions. Neither side would give, because both “knew” they were right. We still don’t have the budget situation settled–and “discussions” sound more like politicking statements.

Abortion is another hot-button issue that doesn’t seem to get beyond harsh name-calling. I don’t know any woman who finds making a decision about an abortion an easy choice–nor is the reality of what that decisionĀ means easy to accept, but I don’t hear an acknowledgement of any of thatĀ from some of the rhetoric. There are occasional blessings when people on both sides of the issue come together to work out ways of reducing abortions. It hasn’t happened very often, but when it does, past prejudices have been put aside to find ways of meeting a common goal.

Currently there is a lack of discussion on issues of sexuality. Individuals–and organizations–seem to have their positions staked out as to morality or immorality, and individual faces and stories are lost in the heated words.

How can we get beyond this impasse? How can we learn to truly listen to each other and hear what each other is saying, rather than what we think they are saying?

We have to see each other as real people…people struggling with difficult issues, who are doing the best they know how. None of us have the complete answers; it is only when we are willing to hear each other’s stories that we can put faces with issues…that we can begin to understand each other’s concerns and perspectives…and it is only then that we can begin to reclaim the art of listening in ways that will allow us to work together toward solutions.

Is anybody there? Does anybody care?