Why They Listen to You

“People tire quickly of conversations that are simply ongoing narratives, endlessly repeated narratives, of another time.”
– Joan Chittister

Older Generation - Joan Chittister, The Gift of Years

Aunt Nancy

Aunt Nancy is 93 years old. Her husband died a few years back. She now lives in assisted living, but is doing well, all things considered.

As she sat inside on July 4th, away from the heat, different guests at the cookout would wander in and out of the house. And occasionally sit down for a visit with Aunt Nancy.

By mid-afternoon, I was seeking escape from the heat, too. Aunt Nancy was the perfect respite.

As I sat with a few others in my mother-in-law’s living room, we talked with Aunt Nancy. She told us some things we already knew. And some surprising things, too—her memory isn’t what it used to be—that we could easily weed out.

But content aside, it was simply being together that we enjoyed.

The Signposts

We weren’t looking to Aunt Nancy for only facts from the past.

Like other pilgrims on this journey, we look to the generation who walked before us for a lighted path. For a well-trodden road. For signposts that if we keep walking this way, we’ll end up in the right place.

  • We listen to hear that regardless, it will work out.
  • We listen to hear that God is really good.
  • We listen to hear that in the end, we will be fine.

I need to remember that, when I’m on the other side of the conversation. When I’m the “Aunt Nancy.” When I’m the older generation, the Aunt Lisa.

Aunt Lisa

Earlier in the day, before the crowds arrived, I was able to spend a quiet conversation with one of my nieces. She’s beautifully pregnant with her second baby, halfway there. We talked about changes and worries and options.

And what I hoped to pass along to her wasn’t facts, but hope. Faith. Joy. That she’s doing a fine job already. And I know she will continue to, regardless of what comes next.

That “life in all its forms is not only possible but wonderful,” in the words of Joan Chittister.

Relationships aren’t just to relay information back and forth to each other. They are to inspire each other to live better, to live stronger, to live more wisely.

Why We Listen

By the end of the day, Aunt Nancy was wilting. She’d changed from sitting on the couch to lying down on it. I rode with Clara Jo to take Aunt Nancy back to her home.

When we arrived at her assisted living facility, the residents were already gathered in the dining room for supper. Aunt Nancy was excited to be there with them. Even though she had no hunger for food, she was hungry to share her day with her friends.

Before she was even seated, they were asking her about it. “Tell us all about your day, Nancy!” She was ready to talk. And they were ready to listen.

Whether talking to someone ahead of us or someone behind us on our life’s journeys this week, may we all breathe life and inspire love and speak courage into each other.

Isn’t that what we’re all listening for?

* * *

Who do you listen to that is older than you? Are there younger ears listening to your voice? Please share in the comments.

34 thoughts on “Why They Listen to You

  1. Stacey Pardoe

    Beautiful words, Lisa! I love this: Relationships aren’t just to relay information back and forth to each other. They are to inspire each other to live better, to live stronger, to live more wisely. . . . Amen!

  2. Lesley

    That’s so true- it’s not so much passing on information that is important but sharing hope and encouragement. There is something wonderful about listening to the older generation, especially people who have walked with Jesus for a long time. They have so much wisdom to share.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, those older than us have so much wisdom that we often miss out on if we don’t take the time to listen. I’m as guilty of that as anyone. 🙁 And I’m also guilty in thinking I don’t have anything worth sharing with the younger generation. Our stories aren’t meant for just us alone. God wants to weave our paths together in ways we can’t imagine.

  3. Pam

    I absolutely want to “Amen, Amen” this sentence: “Relationships aren’t just to relay information back and forth to each other. They are to inspire each other to live better, to live stronger, to live more wisely.”

    I also LOVE the theme throughout and the quote at the outset from The Gift of Years. It is a favorite book of my husband’s and mine.

    Thanks for such a reflective start to my Monday!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad to hear that you like The Gift of Years too, Pam! I can’t believe that I’m just now reading it for the first time. It was a delightful book. Maybe I never realized until now that I am at an age to benefit from it. 🙂

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I hope to keep these words in mind, too, Debbie. I still think of myself as the younger generation. 🙂 But more often than not, I can be among the oldest in a room these days, and I don’t need to be slacking off in my responsibilities to those younger.

  4. Barbara Harper

    I’m a little conflicted with the first quote shared about tiring of ongoing narratives. I think that is true, if I understand what the author is saying correctly. But I think that’s where we find those principles we do like to hear – that God is good and everything will work out. Hopefully, as long as I have control of my thoughts as I get older, I can remember not to just share endless or pointless stories about the past, but to share the encouragement as well.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yeah, I almost deleted that first line because it’s a little hard to understand taken out of context. (And I don’t have the book with me tonight to go look it up and report on it.) But from what I recall, you are right on target about not just sharing stories to be babbling about the past, but to use those stories to convey wisdom. It requires an intentionality that sometimes we forget to have, but is so important.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, thanks for sharing the scripture, Bill. My husband is absolutely the best at listening to stories from older people. I’ve learned a lot from watching him listen.

  5. Michele Morin

    I want to do this well, Lisa, and appreciate this two-pronged perspective on using our voices (and our ears) wisely.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I want to do this better myself. I sometimes grow impatient when I start to hear the same ol’ stories. I need to remind myself that it’s less about the story and more about the person telling the story. That’s what I’m to love.

  6. Karen Friday

    Beautiful post, Lisa. Love, love, love this…”Like other pilgrims on this journey, we look to the generation who walked before us for a lighted path. For a well-trodden road. For signposts that if we keep walking this way, we’ll end up in the right place.”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Karen. Reading The Gift of Years has reminded me anew how important it is to value every person of every age. Everyone has had valuable experiences in their life that we can listen and learn from.

  7. Melody

    Aww great words here as always, Lisa. Been a while but so good to hear from you again. I’m listening to an older voice of a woman who is extremely quiet and often in the background. But an incredible strength and mover and shaker. I’m learning a lot. The younger ears are in my home right now as well as their friends’ ears.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Those quieter voices often run deep, yes? I love to hear stories like this, Melody. Too often only the squeaky wheels get heard, but there is such value in drawing out people who mostly in the background. They have much to teach us as well.

  8. Ronja

    Great words here, Lisa! I find it’s important for us to have relationships with those who aren’t like us — because that is how we learn. I have learned a lot from listening to “grandmas” who have seen so much life and speak of God’s goodness in it. Thank you for linking up over at GraceFull Tuesday!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I can tell you are wise, Ronja, if you’ve listened to “grandmas” through the years. 🙂 So much wisdom in the older generations. I often wish my own parents and grandparents were still around so I could continue tapping into their wells.

  9. Bethany

    So beautiful Lisa. Yes, His is what we are all truly listening for. Thanks for this thought provoking point and lovely story.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Bethany. I can get too caught up in only wanting the “information.” So I have to slow down and remind myself that our conversational exchanges run much deeper than that. God is bigger.

  10. Karen Woodall

    the juxtaposition of your aunt and your niece is a picture of a key station in life… we are ‘the between’ serving as a conduit to pass on the legacy of one generation to the innocence of another. Love how you cared for both. May we do likewise.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Karen. I didn’t think about the irony of both spending time with Aunt Nancy and getting to talk with my niece until the day was long over. But it’s a beautiful example of the circle of life. I’m grateful that God puts us in these in-between places so often.

  11. floyd samons

    This is a heart warming and encouraging post, Lisa.

    It is good to listen, to hear, to actually care about another enough to do so.

    It’s tough to learn while we’re yapping…

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “It’s tough to learn while we’re yapping…” – Even though I’ve tried it. 🙂 It’s hard to talk and listen at the same time. Thinking about James 1: be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.

  12. Anita Ojeda

    All to often we forget to those who have gone before us and to those coming up behind us–I especially struggle (I confess I’m a bit of a know-it-all). I read a great book this summer called Multipliers (or something like that), that really helped me analyze myself and my propensity to give solutions and advice.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’d guess we all have some “know-it-all” in us, Anita. Some of us are just more aware of it than others. 🙂 Multipliers sounds like a good book and sounds vaguely familiar—maybe you mentioned it on your blog at some point? It is hard at times to draw the line between giving advice and just listening instead.

  13. Koki

    Really enjoyed this one Lisa.
    I love hearing what people older than me have to say especially for their wisdom. As a child, I’d forgeit hangouts with my cousins for my mum and friends because they were young and making moves in their careers. This inspired me.
    Today, I love the stories, the experiences and the rich history a long life offers. Each year feels like a full harvest and everything has meaning looking back from their point of view.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I love what you shared about preferring to hang out with the older generation to hear their wisdom. What a wise child you were! And I’m sure it has helped you be a more wise adult now. I wish I had listened even more as a child to those old stories. Thanks, Koki.

  14. Mary Hill

    This really inspired me this week. I know listening is a talent not to be taken lightly. I loved the spiritual truths that you wove into your post. Thanks for sharing on the #LMMLinkup this week.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree, Mary. Listening is definitely a skill that we should value more. I have to remind myself again and again to work on listening better. It is such a powerful way to show others that we love them.

  15. Laura Thomas

    Such a beautiful reminder of how precious connection and conversation really is! I would give anything to have one more conversation with my grandparents—all that wisdom and hope and war-time survival! Thanks for sharing, Lisa. 😊 Stopping by from #sittingamongfriends

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, I know, Laura—what I wouldn’t give to have more conversations with my grandparents and now my parents. There are questions I didn’t think to ask back then, or answers I don’t remember hearing. I’m thankful for the conversations we did have, and I look forward to the conversations we’ll all have later for eternity!

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