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National Editorials & Columns

To be a good listener, interact with speaker

   Learning to listen, not just hear has been one skill that has helped me through life.  Many listening skills also help in reading.  What makes a good listener? 

For me listening didn’t come easy. I wanted to agree or disagree too quickly.  I learned that to be a good listener, I need to look at and interact with the speaker; I need to think about what I hear and connect my ideas to any new ideas they share.

Through the years I have learned that I can learn much even from the most boring speaker and that when I take notes, I remember more.  Also, when I guess at what will be the next point I stay focused.  I have also learned through the years that I must plan ahead and take care of physical needs, tend to phone calls, clear my mind of duties, etc. or I don’t recognize the important “stuff.”

Distractions are choices not to listen, so taking charge of them ahead of time is important.   Planning is important to be ready to listen. The speaker deserves my full attention.

I firmly believe that I must not judge whether a speaker is worth hearing before speaking.  I don’t want to miss the gems that could make a difference in my life.  I fully realize there are poor speakers in the world, but I believe that poor listeners far outweigh them. I hope I let the speaker speak without putting words in his/her mouth and I hope I listen to the entire presentation before I evaluate what is said.

The key note to speaking, listening, etc. is thinking and being receptive to new ideas.  I hope I put my impulsiveness aside for a little while, just as I need to put my hope for spring aside to enjoy winter.

Does St. Patrick’s Day make you think of spring?  Does it make you want to dance a jig?  Do you find yourself getting caught up in the spirit of energetic foolishness, and wearing more green than usual?

This may happen to you even if you aren’t Irish.  Enthusiasm is catching.  New York City holds a famous St. Patrick’s Day Parade (since 1762).  There are bands, marchers, celebrities, and more in the parade.  They paint a green stripe down the center of Fifth Avenue and the lights on top of the Empire State Building are turned green.

Millions of real shamrocks are flown from Ireland for the festivities.  There are green and gold pennants, green balloons, and everyone wears green.  Even the food is colored green and the radio stations play Irish songs.

St. Patrick’s story starts at his birth in Scotland, and then at sixteen he was captured and sold as a slave.  He eventually freed himself and studied for fourteen years to be a priest after he escaped to France. 

According to his followers he performed many miracles.  A well-known legend says that he drove the snakes out of Ireland. It is no legend that he returned to the country that held him captive after training to be a priest.  He came to love the people, build churches, and spread Christianity.  Later, Ireland named him their patron saint.

There is something magical about St. Patrick’s Day whether we think in terms of leprechauns (mischievous elves of Irish folklore), charm, or green everywhere.

Since I can be partially claimed by the Irish, my thoughts turn to St. Patrick, clover, and the shamrock.  An interesting story about the shamrock is that when pagans demanded that St. Patrick prove the Trinity, he picked a shamrock leaf and asked his audience whether he held one leaf or three.  They were unable to answer so he said, “If you cannot explain so simple a mystery as the shamrock, how can you hope to understand one as profound as the Holy Trinity?” (Seasons and Symbols by Robert Wetzler and Helen Huntington)

The Irish expands our vocabulary with some fun words such as: banshee - wailing female spirit; blarney — flattery or nonsense; brogue —  Irish accent; colcannon — dish of cabbage and potatoes; colleen - Irish lass; keen- lament in wailing tones; shamrock — clover; smithereens — little fragments. 

Make this St. Patrick’s Day different.  Perhaps, dye your hair green or put green food coloring in your food, or wear a tall green hat.  St. Patrick was a serious individual who fought against a number of odds.  It wasn’t luck that made him the patron saint of Ireland. 

Some Irish reading suggestions are:  Leprechauns Never Lie by Lorna Balian and The Luck of the Irish by Brendan Patrick Paulsen which are easy books.  In the juvenile classification:  Holiday Ring by Adeline Corrigan; We Celebrate Spring by Bobbie Kalman, and St. Patrick’s Day by Joyce K. Kessel.  St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning by Eve Bunting, and The Hungry Leprechaun by Mary Calhoun.  I enjoy riddles also:  Think of an eight-letter word that is both a county in Ireland and a funny poem.  Until next week…  Christine Pauley

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