I really enjoyed this book “Walking to Listen” by Andrew Forsthoefel. It is his story of walking across the US with a sign on his back saying “walking to listen”. He documents his journey and talks about all the different people that he met in his journey.
This book reminded me of two things in my life. One was my train trip across the US, where I just met so many different people, and it was a space that was normal to talk to others. I met people from all walks of life. I wish that this was something I would be able to do in my everyday life.
The other thing it reminded me of was doing chaplaincy. When many people talk about their time in chaplaincy, they talk about being a vessel to hold pain or sadness. But for me, I really think that it is walking to listen. I walked around the hospital to listen to people. At times they needed to share fear or sadness, but other times they wanted to share things that make them happy or pieces of who they are outside of the hospital walls. For many, their illness is not something that defines them, but rather is just something that is part of a whole. And if you walk to listen- then you are able to see the different pieces that make up the whole.
Here are some quotes that he quoted that I really liked:
“This is in the end the only kind of courage that is required of us,” Rilke wrote, in his Letters. “The courage to face the strangest, most unusual, most inexplicable experiences that can meet us…But the fear of the inexplicable has not only impoverished the reality of the individual; it has also narrowed the relationship between one human being and another, which has as it were been lifted out of the riverbed of infinite possibilities and set down in a fallow place on the bank, where nothing happens.” The inexplicable. The unknown. The serendipitous. Best make room for them, I thought, so something will happen.
Whitman was with Rilke on this one:
“You shall no longer take things at second or third hand… nor look through the eyes of the dead… nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself”