Tag Archive: Listening

post by carolnl | | Closed

What’s Your Story?

Everyone has a story, if we will only take time to listen.

When my late husband and I waited several months for a transplant in Florida, we heard stories from a lot of folks.

One of our favorite places to visit before Jerry was hospitalized was a pretty little town among rolling hills. Micanopy was about thirty minutes from the hospital in Gainesville. We enjoyed wandering through antique shops, talking with shop owners, and delighting in ice cream from a small shop on the main street. When Jerry got too tired, he would sit on a bench in front of our favorite store and watch people while I wandered.

The ice cream shop always pulled us in. One day while we were enjoying their delicious goodness, we met Cliff, who introduced himself and his wife, the woman we’d met several times before, as the shop owners.

“Where are you from?” he asked.

“California.”

“That’s a long ways away. Are you vacationing?”

Jerry answered. “No. I’m on the list for a liver and pancreas transplant at Gainesville and we’re waiting for the call.”

“Wow, that’s got to be tough.”

We continued the conversation, learning from Clifton “Hollywood” Harris that he was at that time the third-longest-running rodeo clown in the United States. A Texas native, he always dreamed of being a rodeo clown. While he competed in rodeo for awhile, he loved physical comedy and becoming a rodeo clown seemed a natural progression.

His eight-ish son, “Boogerhead”, (now Brinson James the Entertainer), strolled through the shop and we were introduced. Hollywood was teaching his young son to join him on the circuit, and the two were already a team.

“He’s been my sidekick ever since he was two years old,” said Hollywood.

Hollywood Harris and Boogerhead – Photo used by permission

Harris began his rodeo clown career in 1984. We met him in 2005, when he’d already been in the business twenty-one years. He said being a rodeo clown was actually more dangerous than being a bullrider, because his job was to distract the bull and protect the rider. Harris is regarded as one of the most innovative clowns in rodeo and was chosen to perform at International Finals Rodeos, both as a Comedy Act and Barrel Clown. He also won a record six events at the IFR Contract Act Show in Oklahoma City which included Comedy Act, Dress Act, and the Barrel Man Competition!

Below are two special pictures.

Boogerhead posted the picture on the left a few years ago as a Father’s Day tribute to his dad.

Below right, Hollywood and James Brinson as an adult performer. That’s one proud Dad!

I found Hollywood on Facebook yesterday and reconnected with him, telling him my memory of our conversation seventeen years ago, and what a delight it was to meet caring folks like him and his wife along our journey.

That day in the ice cream shop seventeen years ago we sat and talked for one or two hours. Cliff was gracious, humble, open–and in civilian clothing! We loved hearing about his career and especially his love for his son. He asked what kept us going in the face of a terminal illness.

Jerry shared with him that what gave us hope was our faith in Jesus Christ. Jerry said that whether he lived or died, he couldn’t lose. Either he would stay here with me, his bride, or he would be in the presence of his Lord and Savior. As it turned out, he went home to be with Jesus and I was alone–but not alone–because my God promised never to leave or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

Everyone believes in something.

  • It may be your own capabilities and skills.
  • It may be that statement, “It’s all good.”
  • It may be trusting that someone else will take care of whatever concerns you.
  • It may mean ignoring the pain around you and hoping it will go away.
  • It may be your financial security.

But when it comes to life and death, when it comes to real purpose and meaning in life, Jesus Christ is the only sure foundation we have.

Jesus said,

As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete. Luke 6:47-49

Where is your hope?

And when’s the last time you took time to listen to someone’s story?

  • Perhaps after they’ve lost a loved one.
  • Or had a career crisis.
  • Or lost financial resources.
  • Or love their work or family and want to tell you what brings them joy.

And when have you last shared your own story? I’d love to hear it.

The Waitress

woman wearing gray top
Photo by Athena on Pexels.com

She walked to our restaurant table in Florence, Kentucky. Blonde, pony-tailed, heavily tattooed, our waitress answered some questions and then, somehow, told us her life story. I don’t even remember how that happened, how she opened up. But over her next several trips to our table, Leah spilled out one of the saddest stories I’ve heard–and I’ve heard a few.

  • Her brother was born of an incestuous relationship between her mother and her mother’s father.
  • Her mother sold the two children for drugs when they were little.
  • Leah had been on drugs for several years, but had been clean for about three years, trying to make a new life for herself. She broke up with her boyfriend because he wasn’t committed to staying clean.
  • She’d had three cars in the last two months, and the one she had now needed repairs.
  • Her brother wanted to have a sexual relationship with her, which she refused. “I’m here to protect you, not to be your girlfriend.”

We asked if she knew God, and she said she did. “I talk to him every day.” Did she know Jesus? “Yes.” But she didn’t have a Bible, wasn’t in a church as far as we know, so I don’t know how deep her understanding of God’s nature and of Jesus’ forgiveness went. I told her that no matter what her past held, she is precious in God’s eyes and that he loves her. We were able to leave her with a Gospel of John (she said she’d buy a Bible that weekend), with some other information about how to know God through Jesus, as well as a very healthy tip, saying we wanted to bless her.

We’ll likely never see Leah again except, we pray, in heaven.

But what a divine appointment! Had we been busy chatting ourselves we may never have connected with Leah as we did.

Jesus asked questions of the people he met.

“Do you want to be made whole?” (Good question!) Is it possible that some would rather wallow in their self-pity, their dysfunction, their addiction, than be made whole?

He engaged the Samaritan woman at a well. She would come when the townswomen were not there to gather water. As a woman living in adultery, she could not join in their laughter and gossip. But Jesus was there. After they had spoken for awhile…

The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”

Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

John 4:25-26. NKJV

How often do we stop long enough to listen–to the one who wants to tell her story; the one who struggles to find words because of brain cancer or dementia; the one who must weep before being able to speak; the one who hungers for someone to really hear them? Listening requires being quiet, not speaking quickly (which for me is the easier course of action).

We have a Father who is always ready to listen.

Casting all your care on him, for he cares for you.

I Peter 5:7 NKJV

And the Father has given us each other, to listen, be present, and help as he leads.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

I John 4:11 NIV

Listening takes time. I confess that I often move from one thing to another without stopping long enough to listen. I’m working on that. I want to be available for those divine appointments God brings my way; to listen closely enough to him that I know when to slow down or stop, pay attention and love someone along my way.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry …

James 1:19

What divine appointments have you experienced recently, or in the past? I’d love to hear.