When I first arrived up north in Alaska, I was listening carefully to everything everyone told me and nearly got overloaded. You see my spiritual antennae; my internal device for listening; was tuned for the Deep South where I had lived for years. In that region, people would go out of their way to avoid saying something harsh. You had to listen carefully through all sorts of smooth language to get to the heart of what may have been a very critical statement. Maybe in the south, with its unbearable heat and residual storehouse of internal discomfort people had over-polished their people skills to avoid confrontation. Up north some people would greet you with overly harsh comments as a sign of affection, not affliction. As a result my initial interactions left me feeling a bit overloaded, till I visited about all this with some folks who were lower forty-eight transplants and they helped me retune.
In my southern experience, I had to draw out of many people what they were saying, but in my northern experience, people often gave me more than I asked for and I had to filter it all out. Adventuresome types who are willing to leave it all to start in a new land have certain characteristics as well but that’s for another article.
In today’s world we need to listen carefully to those around us. As Christian brothers and sisters we certainly have responsibility to each other, to support each other and keep the body of Christ, which we’re called to be, functioning well. But there’s a wider world we’re called to serve as well. Jesus tells us to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves”. Are we listening to our neighbors? Have we “tuned our spiritual antennae” through prayer and careful reflection? There’s a whole world waiting for you.
Peace, Fr. Gary