Just Listening is a Tremendous Gift

My Dear Friends and Readers,

I am a keeper of secrets. For some odd reason  strangers tell me secrets which they have not shared before. I don’t know what it is about me that would cause people to do this. A long time ago a television news director told me that I had a believable face- so maybe that’s what it is. No matter what the reason people tell me their secrets.

What made me want to tell this story is the man who sat next to me on a plane on Christmas Day as I flew home from Birmingham through Atlanta to Baltimore. I don’t recall his name if he ever told me, which I don’t think he did. I think he asked me if I was heading home and I said yes. He answered that he lived in Annapolis, but here is  his story:

Let’s call him Sam. Sam told me on the following Monday his divorce was going to be final. He said that he was visiting his older sister in Atlanta but was heading home to Annapolis and that his new friend would be taking him home. He told me that he had tried to kill himself twice this past year and he described his two suicide attempts both involving large quantities of alcohol.

He swallowed 15 pain-killers and washed them down with bourbon. He said he woke up and didn’t die and didn’t even have a hang over or headache. The second time, he was out drinking away his blues and somehow woke up on the side of the free-way with the engine of  his car still running. He had no idea how long he had been there, but it was his wake up call.

The reason that he had tried to kill himself: his wife had cheated on him with her co-worker and left him. Then she tried to come back and left again. The saddest part about his story was that I could tell that he had not gotten over his  soon to be ex-wife.

He thanked me for listening and I answered that the gift of listening is one of the greatest gifts we can give. I didn’t give this man any advice. He was already seeing a psychiatrist and is in group counseling and attends church regularly. I simply listened. Besides his wife, this man talked to me about his birth family. He told me about his sisters and his mother and his father who was in the military and often times away. I am glad I was the stranger who could understand.

As I thought of this man and his anguished tale, I recalled that ten years ago, a grandmother told me that she had been raped by her father when she was sixteen. She told me that she had never met him before that time. That later that night, he was in bed with her and raped her. She never told anybody but me.

I could go far back but it’s not necessary. What this story is about is the power of listening and what a rare gift it is.  As I begin this year, I hope to listen as carefully and profoundly to all the people who are significant in my life. I hope that they will find in me a safe place to share and know that I will listen. If I have any advice, it’s only to say the obvious- you should talk to somebody professional.
I never know if they do, but I am always glad to be of service when the situation calls for it.


Brianna S. Clark,
The Addict Writes

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