Listening Deeply

garden mind book

“The Garden in My Mind: Growing Through Positive Choices” by Stephanie McCumbee
Publisher: Boys Town Press – February 14, 2014

“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.”  G.K. Chesterton

Yesterday, my husband and I drove five hours to a 4-year-old’s birthday party. Ninga Turtles were everywhere – little boys and girls wearing red headbands, eating pizza and chocolate cupcakes.  The honoree was one of our five grandchildren.

Our son told us a story about this 4-year-old that had amazed him.   A couple of weeks earlier our daughter-in-law bought the children a new book,  The Garden in My Mind: Growing Through Positive Choices by Stephanie McCumbee, an elementary teacher in their school district. For several nights that week at bedtime, they read this book together before going to sleep.

In the story, a little boy can’t seem to stay out of trouble.  Whatever he observes, he follows along and acts out.  He copies others who misbehave and ignores the quiet and attentive children.  His teacher explains to the class how their minds are like sponges sitting on top of their heads, capable of growing flowers or weeds.  Their thoughts and actions are like the water that makes the flowers or weeds sprout.  Whimsical illustrations of some children with beautiful bouquets and others with drooping, wilting weeds sit on top of their heads like hats bring the metaphor to life.

While driving to school one morning after hearing the book read over several  evenings, our grandson told his dad, “I’ve been really good at school this week.  I’ve been thinking about those beautiful flowers and that’s what I want – not those ugly weeds.”

Listening deeply can begin in childhood but it’s not too late to start paying close attention at any age.  It may even take hearing something several times before it really sinks in.

  • Do you recall a time when you heard something more than once before your really listened to what you were hearing?
  • Get out your journal and write 5 to 10 minutes about that experience.
  • Ask yourself questions to further deepen your understanding of how you learned from that experience.
  • Note your appreciation of that experience!

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