Larry King said once: I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I'm going to learn, I must do it by listening.
There is a shredder in the student work room in the history department; it's not something we think much about. Sometimes teachers give us old tests to shred with a gleam in their eye, because shredding is no ones favorite job. A few weeks ago, the teacher I work for dropped a large box next to me and declared, "Today you get to do one of my favorite jobs, shredding!" I thought he was being sarcastic, so I replied, "Oh my goodness, THIS is why I love working for the Chair of the department." But after a few more sentiments of care for shredding, I began to think he was being serious.
After a few minutes of noisy shredding, the bag was full and in need of a change. In the lull between shredding storms Monty came in to get water and told me, 'When I started here the department didn't have a shredder. So as Chair, the first thing I purchased was this shredder.'
All of a sudden, this wasn't just a box which provided a less than fun job. It is a box of firsts, of new beginnings. You wouldn't know by looking at it, but the shredder has a story.
I work as a tutor at Walla Walla High School during the week. It's a job I thoroughly enjoy. The kids are easy to joke around with, easy to have fun with; but often it's hard to break into their deeper parts. They, like many I know including me, have a hard time opening up about their brokenness. But if you listen carefully they might just give something away.
Last week the kids were practicing being in front of people and were responsible for reading something to the class. Some chose poems, or stories from a book; others read stories they had written for an English class. Stephanie is a freshman, she is loud, outgoing, and seemingly very self-confident. She got up to read, and her story broke my heart. Her dad had left her and her mom for another family out of the blue; and she had spent the last few years struggling to feel like she matters to him when he continues to make excuses and not show up. You may not know by looking at her, but Stephanie has a story.
The balcony outside of the history department is one of my favorite places. On the balcony is a table and chairs out there and some of us spend a lot of time there reading; there is also a rubber mat that spans the length and width of the balcony. I've never really thought anything of this mat until last week. Dr Aamodt crawled out the window to sit with us for a few minutes and told this story: When the new Ad Building first opened, the history department was told, don't go out on the balcony. The paper put down on the balcony to drain the rain would break through if walked on. Dodds and Buell were not happy about this- they wanted a place for students and themselves. So they went out and bought rubber mats to make being on the balcony an approved activity.
You might not know by looking at them, but the mats have a story.
I'm learning to ask. I'm learning to listen. Because everyone has a story worth knowing.