None of you need my advice, nor am I qualified to give it; few people are. So this isn’t advice. It is a plea.
Listen more, this year.
That’s my plea.
The world of social media is a raucous den of howler monkeys (I can certainly be one, so I feel often at home here) some days. Folks are shouting, pontificating, slandering, mocking, criticizing, justifying, rationalizing, arguing, or protesting. The Internet is sometimes a fun place, sometimes, but not always a friendly place. My plea is just: listen. Not everyone here is a good person with good intentions, but everyone here has a story and experiences and an entire world that only they have ever seen, and that world and that story is not likely to be what you expect. The more you listen, the more stories you have. The more stories you have, the bigger your heart grows, so that it can have room for all those stories. The bigger your heart is, the easier it is to listen. And the more you listen, the more stories you have. And the more stories you have, the bigger your heart is… And so on. And the more people who have big hearts and spend much of their time listening, the more stories get heard. Decisions get wiser. People get less angry and less fearful.
So listen. Listen a lot, if you can. Listen long, and compassionately, and deeply.
I want to listen, a lot, this year.
There are a lot of stories out there to listen to. Many of them will surprise me.
Only twice have I ever been moved with a desire to ‘unfriend’ a person online: once over a case of stalking, and once over a spewing of hate (in that case, the other person was kind enough to unfriend me first). My readers and fans and Facebook friends are of varied genders, ethnicities, religions, political opinions, and nationalities. That is not because I “toe the line,” or am politically correct or incorrect, or because I don’t have opinions. I do. I have a gender, an ethnicity, a religion, an array of political opinions, and a nationality: there are a lot of defined boxes that I fit into. But I think I have a diverse readership and a diverse Facebookship because I like listening. I like hearing, sharing, and telling stories. And then hearing more stories. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I have books, rather than just manuscripts hidden in a back drawer. That’s why I spend time here, and not just locked away by my writing desk. I love your stories. I love my own, too, and I love to tell them and talk about them; but I also love your stories, and I yearn to listen.
My prayer and hope, each year, is to be a better listener.
My plea to you is: Listen. Listen from the heart. Listen because you want to know the other person, not just their politics or some other facet of their identity. Listen to their heart and their story. Listen, a lot, this year. Listen and hear.