A couple of summers back, a book called 29 Gifts inspired me to offer myself as a listener to 29 people in a series of 29 soul chats over 29 days. The people who volunteered to talk to me each had something to teach me or a message for me. I was reminded of how inter-connected we all are by dint of our humanity.
Some of these people’s life circumstances either exactly mirrored my own or matched those of another of the volunteers they had never met and would never know, in a sort of virtual relay race. Amazing too how many of the Soul Chatters wanted to discuss the same core issues. Here’s just a small taste of what they taught me.
Love and loveliness is all around us if we will but take the time to notice it. As you look for it, you see more of it and as you stop to appreciate it and really feel it, you draw more to you.
People are extraordinarily brave and kind, taking leaps of faith with their lives and still sharing of themselves with others. This reminds me of Tom Shadyac’s film, I AM, which sets out to discuss with various luminaries what’s wrong with the world and how we are going to fix it, and ends up instead finding out what’s right with it. People are amazing and hearing their stories inspires me to step up and serve in new ways.
Many want life to be more peaceful, to turn down the noise. I have found Robert Holden’s work to be useful in this regard. In his daily inspiration messages he sends such thoughts as “Each and every member of the Busy Generation has to be willing to sacrifice busyness for true success.”
The closer to middle age people are, the more fearful they become. How many would have hesitated to do something which now gives them pause when they were in their twenties, thirties or even forties? But approaching becoming an OAP at 60/65 seems to bring fear back into our lives more centrally. I wonder what it would take to be bolder again?
Some of my even older acquaintances recover this boldness in their later lives, perhaps when they feel they have nothing to lose. I watched people in their eighties and nineties (and even over 100 recently on TV) abseiling and expressing a desire to jump out of airplanes. So perhaps the recklessness of youth returns. This gives me hope that middle age is just a phase, a bit like being a sort of grumpy teenager again.
There often seemed to be one word which my chatters used which is pivotal to how they view themselves and their world. One woman used the word “gusto” twice. I think gusto is a wonderful word and told her so, she didn’t even know she had used it once, let alone twice and yet to me it was a vital clue to her energy. We discussed what gusto meant to her and her own words pointed her in the right direction for her.
Another chatter described herself as “sensible” and when I said that back to her she remembered that she wanted to stop being so sensible. I remember telling a young man of my acquaintance much the same thing about myself 40 years ago and he said he didn’t think of me as sensible at all. How we think about ourselves colours who we believe we are, but it might be worth checking your own self-ascribed labels with others before you nail your colours any particular mast.
One man, a teacher, reminded me that the longer we stay in one job, the more our confidence and self-esteem can erode and that can make it difficult to acknowledge our gifts; so it’s good to experiment, to offer ourselves in new ways and not to pre-judge how that will be received. The world will always affirm a good idea by taking it up readily.
People are wonderful. I think I had allowed myself to forget that for a while until 29 Gifts brought new people into my life, “strangers” all. Strangers who were choosing to be generous and abundant in sharing their time and snapshots of their lives with me and asking nothing in return. What a gift! They say you teach what you most need to learn, but my Soul Chatters were my own teachers.
Thanks to one of my pals who sent this from Stephen R. Covey “To touch the soul of another human being is to walk on holy ground.” I don’t kid myself I’m there yet but I did get a sense of where this soul chat might lead, having put just twenty nine tentative steps in that direction.
Listen without prejudice. It’s a great gift to give another living soul.