Resolve to listen in 2018

park, Harrisonburg VA
Like a walk in the woods, listening is good exercise.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions. In general, I think they are just so much hype without much substance. For those who are serious about such resolutions, however, I wish you the very best at keeping and meeting those New Year challenges.

Not making resolutions doesn’t mean I don’t desire to improve the world and myself. I do with all my heart. I’ve discovered in my many years of living that it takes more than wishing.

Drive and desire are key ingredients to making the world a better place for all of us to live. And by all of us, I mean every single human being. In the eyes of the Maker, we all have equal worth. Those are His words, not mine.

With that in mind, I want 2018 to be the best year yet. Given the world’s troubles, that’s going to take the work of all of us to help make that happen.

That’s the thing with resolutions. They tend to be too individualized. However, working together creates a more substantial margin for success. If we want to improve the world, we have to help one another.

Let’s agree to make our surroundings more beautiful, peaceful, kind, inviting, welcoming. I can’t do it alone. I’ll need lots of help. You and you and you. Regardless of our political affiliations, religion, race, ethnic background, one by one we can together resolve to bring peace to this too troubled world.

We don’t all have to agree on how that gets done. Too often the details are what derail us from accomplishing anything good at all. Forget the details. If we are clear on the aim and outcome, a legitimate process is required. It doesn’t have to be complicated, however.

As ordinary citizens, we need to strive to do better than the ballyhooed politicians for our families, our communities, our country, our globe, and ourselves. It’s the least we can do for our children, our grandchildren, and all the generations to come.

conversation, listening
Listening requires full focus and attention of all our being.
What’s my grandiose plan for this noble goal of reconciliation and harmony? You and you and you, and me. Together we can help soften the rancor in the world if we only take time to listen to what others are saying, asking, claiming, even accusing. Yes. That’s it. Just genuinely listen to one another. It doesn’t have to be an inquisition, merely face-to-face listening. After hearing the other, ask clarifying questions to ensure understanding. And with that knowledge, we ask more delving questions.

I don’t intend noisiness. I mean sincere inquisitiveness that leads to a mutual understanding of each other. And yes, in the end, we may still respectfully disagree. But just because we may differ on how we see a given situation, listening should not lead to denigrating the other person or the belief they hold. Dialogue should lead to mutual respect for one another. Our integrity as human beings depends on it.

If we agree to focus on clarity of issues, truly listen to one another, and respond with personal respect and understanding, perhaps we can make not only our lives but also the lives of those we affect a tad better, conversation by conversation.

In 2018, can we all at least resolve to try to improve the world by listening without judging? Besides making the world a better, safer place, wouldn’t that also make each one of us better people, too?

I’m ready to listen. How about you?

Silver Lake, Dayton VA
Listening and understanding without judgement create a quiet beauty even on a cloudy day.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

Start the year with a bucket list

Cathedral Rock by Bruce Stambaugh
Cathedral Rock, Sedona, AZ

By Bruce Stambaugh

Instead of resolutions, I’m starting this new year by making a bucket list. As popularized by the recent movie of the same name, a bucket list is a compilation of activities you want to accomplish before you “kick the bucket.”

I’m not anticipating knocking on the pearly gates anytime soon. But then again that’s not always in our hands. I set these dreamy accomplishments to paper as a more determined effort to prioritize ambitions not yet achieved.

Obviously, a bucket list is personal, and varies according to any given individual’s interests and ambitions. The items need not be lofty, fancy, outrageous or flamboyant, just ideas and ideals unfulfilled. As one item is accomplished, another can be added.

What’s on my bucket list? Here’s a peek at some of the activities.

I want to write a book, maybe two. With my many interests, I certainly have gathered enough material. Now I need to pick a subject and get busy.

Shoshone Point, Grand Canyon, AZ by Bruce Stambaugh
Shoshone Point, Grand Canyon, AZ.

I want to visit all 50 states. I have been working on this one all my life. I have seven states to go, Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.

I want to see a game in every major league baseball park. On this, too, I already have a head start. But I have dallied enough that some of the parks have long been torn down. I need to get moving before Wrigley Field and Fenway Park disappear.

I want to work with other relatives to develop a family tree. I know bits and pieces have already been compiled by extended family members. I want to help fill in some of the blank spaces if I can. Family is important to me and I enjoy history.

I would love to walk where James Herriot lived and worked in Yorkshire, England. A veterinarian by trade, Herriot made his intriguing life come alive for children and adults alike in his many books. He so eloquently intertwined the characters he met, the animals he treated, and the lovely rural Yorkshire countryside into fascinating tales.

Near San Marcos, Honduras by Bruce Stambaugh
The little church we helped build near San Marcos, Honduras.

I want to learn Spanish, at least enough to make my simplest inquiries known to those with whom I work and share when I visit Honduras. I figure it’s the least I can do.

I also want to read and reread the many good books that are gathering dust on my shelves. Like all the other items on my bucket list, they, too, have a lot to teach me. And above all else, I love to learn.

I also want to spend time hosting family and friends more than my wife and I already do. They always manage to teach me so much, especially the grandchildren. The grandkids keep me young in spirit even if they physically tire me out at times.

This laundry list of wannadoes is all well and good. But it is, like the Hollywood movie, a tad self-serving. A better bucket list should be even more inclusive and considerate of others.

Working side by side with folks, whether near or far, would be a more humanitarian item for a bucket list. Donating blood, volunteering at a hospital, serving food at a homeless shelter all would be appropriate additions to anyone’s bucket list.

You and I both might be stunningly surprised at how far such a practical, selfless implementation of service would take us. Perhaps we would go further than we ever thought we could accomplish.

That would be a bucket list worth creating.