One life lesson I’ve learned from my father is the value of listening. As I grew up, he always had time for me. If I knocked on his office door, he would tell me to come in, setting a book aside. If I approached him as he worked around the house, he would stop what he was doing. I always knew I had his full attention. By asking a question here or there, he would help me come to the right answer for whatever my dilemma was that day. Not by telling me what to do, but by sharing insights, asking questions, and applying logic. I would then continue with my day, feeling settled and confident with my decision. He would pick up his book or tool and continue his task at hand.
I’ve been trying to focus more on listening to people in my life. Too frequently, I haven’t. I’ve missed questions or conversation because I was distracted by my phone, a book, or a task. If I really want to hear a need, a question, or a statement, I’ve come to accept that multi-tasking doesn’t work. In order to really hear, I have to put my distractions aside.
As I continue to work on my listening skills, one instance of successful listening comes to mind. My father loves to tell stories and one was about wanting a goat as a small boy. Through his words, I pictured a chain attached to their garage with a little collar ready. A water bowl was prepared to be filled religiously. However, his folks explained to him that a goat was not an option. Why had he wanted a goat? Why couldn’t he have one? I have no idea, but I heard his story. I had listened.
One Father’s Day, when I was an adult and he was a grandfather, I got him a baby goat. Dad was surprised when I told him my plan – confirming that he still had a goat desire before actually picking one up. I had read that goats calm horses, which we had five of at the time. Dad agreed, and we brought Gilbert home. Tawny brown, Gilbert was adorable with floppy ears and a dark stripe painted from nose to tail.
The kids had fun helping Grampa care for Gilbert. We learned that not all was perfect when Gilbert ate our horses’ tails off. Ragged and stringy, the poor horses’ tails lacked enough substance to swat flies from their faces. After preparing a separate pasture for him, Gilbert cried to the point that we got a second goat, Nanita, to keep him company. Nanita calmed Gilbert down and they thrived in their separate pasture, allowing the horses to grow tails again. We all had fun with the goats, and my father was pleased.
The gift of a goat was one that came from listening. I heard and responded. I have learned from my father that you have to listen to hear.