The front door opened, and I heard footsteps coming into the kitchen.

“Who’s here?”

No answer.

Not an opportunity for panic; we have grands that live close, and they often stop by and let themselves in. Inevitably, the one that doesn’t answer is Teagan.

He wanders in, waves, and sits down, never once taking his eyes from his phone nor removing his headphones.

I love this guy. He’s funny, wonderfully talkative with great questions and remarkable comments. But when his ears are covered, I know he’s listening to books.

He’s quite different from others his age whose sole purpose in having things in their ears is to listen to music. Teagan is a learner, and he loves books on history and fantasy. Whether he’s mowing a yard or playing a game on his phone, he’s got a story going on in his head.

He’s not rude. If I have a comment or question, I can speak loud enough that he’ll hear and respond. He willingly engages in conversation.

I have to be intentional.

When John and I first married, his grandfather, who lived down the street from his folks, would make the short trip down the block for lunch and dinner each day. I enjoyed him immensely–he was a bit of a rascal, rather opinionated, and a little demanding. John’s mom was a saint; she’d serve him kindly. Conversation was a challenge.

There were days when Grandpa didn’t answer, and Mom would just raise her voice. I learned that if he didn’t want to listen to anyone, he’d turn off his hearing aids. Pretty soon everyone in the house was talking loudly, and unless Grandpa wanted to engage, he remained deaf to the conversation.

His choice.

I’d get frustrated because his unwillingness to listen made it hard to communicate with him. I’d pantomime in front of him to get him to turn on his hearing aids.

More work than the conversation was worth.

As a culture, we’ve learned to tune out what or whom we don’t want to hear. Having conversations with those who won’t actually listen to what someone else has to say isn’t conversation at all. It’s a hopeless monologue which accomplishes nothing.

What’s frustrating is I often have questions about why and how and what people are thinking, but the interaction can’t happen because I’ve been identified as a follower of Jesus, and therefore must think a certain way.

There are those who won’t take the time to get to know me, to ask questions that I might answer, being open to hearing my thinking. Living in a cancel culture, where whatever differs from one’s thinking must be wrong, is a hazard to individual and community growth.

The profound impact Jesus had on His culture was that He listened–to all who came to talk to Him. He was tough on the religious leaders who themselves wouldn’t listen, but He took the time to talk to those people who others wouldn’t have anything to do with.

Being heard is one of our greatest needs. It helps others know who we really are. But if people refuse to listen, they lose the opportunity to consider reality outside their context.

Would it be so hard to turn on those hearing aids? Or take off the headphones?

What you hear may surprise you.

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