By Shirley Palmerton
I grew up on a farm during the Great Depression. Times were hard. My father bought cows so that we would have milk and Mom could make cheese. My parents raised vegetables for us to eat and sell. There were always chickens to be fed, and if they didn’t lay eggs, we ate them.
The cow feed came in fabric bags that had flowers printed on them. Mom would wash them and make play clothes for me. I loved them, because nobody but me had ever worn them.
Whenever we helped on the farm, Dad would tell us what to do and then always say, “Did you listen? I don’t want you to get hurt.”
So we listened. When we were older, my brother, sister and I would follow a horse pulling a cart between the rows of sweet corn. Once picked, we would put five dozen in a bag and tie it tight. Early the next morning, Dad would take the bags of corn to the farmers’ market.
I drove a team of horses pulling a wagon, so my grandfather could fork hay on it. When he yelled, “Whoa,” the horses stopped. Even they listened.
Once, a well-to-do farmer hired Dad to go to the other side of Cleveland to pick up a large black and white bull he had bought. Coming back through Cleveland in his old truck with the wooden sides and strong tailgate, the bull started to bellow. A police officer stopped Dad and asked, “What are you hauling?”
Dad said, “Take a look.”
The police officer climbed the wooden sides to peer in, then got down and said, “follow me.” He gave Dad an escort all the way to Pennsylvania. We all loved listening to that story.
I got married, and my husband and I had two boys and a girl. Every night at the dinner table, they would tell me about their day in school, and we’d listen. After dinner one night our daughter, the youngest, was upset, so I asked her, “What’s wrong?”
She said, “I wanted to tell about my day, but no one took time to listen.” Apparently we had skipped her. After about 14 “I’m sorry” hugs and kisses, she felt better, and we never missed her again.
Have you ever started to tell someone something and, before you got to finish your story, he interrupted and told you what happened to him? I wonder why some people can’t wait to hear what you were talking about.
In life, it is crucial to listen. Many times we do not like what we are hearing, but it’s important to know both sides.
I went to nursing school when I was older. At first, it was hard to listen because so much was going on at home. But after concentrating on doctor’s orders and caring for patients, I became attuned. It was hard to believe how much was going on in each person’s life.
These days, I love to sit on the porch and listen to nature. There is no better music than the chirps of the birds, the buzzing of the bees and the sound of the wind, along with the sight of the buds that will soon turn into the most beautiful flowers.
I try to pay close attention when I’m in church, because I know our minister spends hours preparing his sermon. During service one Sunday, I glanced around and saw someone reading the bulletin. I thought: He is not listening. Then I almost burst out laughing at myself because it occurred to me that I was not listening either. As the saying goes – it comes home to roost.
I will admit it’s hard to listen to everyone, but we should do more of it. You never know what you might hear.