“I Will Listens to Your Problems for $2.00”

I love city streets. Around every corner is another story, or another imagined story. From vendors with Pashmina shawls for $5.00 and touristy kitsch to men in three-piece suits punching the keys of their all important blackberry’s, cities are full of life in all it’s forms.

Around one corner, in the middle of the activity of hundreds of people, was a laymen’s attempt at counseling. The sign said it all – no ambiguity, no false promises –

“I will Listens to Your Problems for $2.00”

It lay on the man’s chest as he dosed off in the humidity of an August afternoon in New York City. He was surrounded by what appeared to be most of his earthly possessions. Perhaps it was the closed eyes and apparent non-interest, but when we saw him he had few takers for the services he was offering.

The reality is he was offering a service that all of us need, and many pay thousands of fees to therapists for – that service of active listening. The listening that communicates to the speaker, “I hear you” “I get it” “I’m with you”. The listening that is not framing a response in the mind while the other person is talking. The listening that waits until the person has finished, and then asks the reflective question and clarifies to understand what is beyond the surface.

We live in a world where a person wears a sign that say “Free Hugs” and people wait in lines just to get that hug. A world where a sign saying “Free Love”, complete with rip-off tags that have the word “Love” typed on them are taken as soon as the sign is hung on a bulletin board. And a world where a homeless man will “Listens to your problems for $2.00”. We live in a world that longs for connection, human connection.

We try to substitute this need with all manner of other things. We substitute our need with busy lives, wearing our busy badges of honor, restless if we don’t have something planned during every minute of every day. We try to satisfy and substitute with gadgets, the latest in computer technology that will seemingly keep us wired.  But Apple and Microsoft won’t give us the touch of human contact that we need, and it’s difficult to listen electronically. By the time one chat has gone through the person has moved on to another topic.

I was both amused and challenged by the gentleman’s sign. Here was a sign and a service that could appeal to every man, woman and child walking the streets. Will I “listens to people’s problems” and in doing so offer some of the connection and soul-care that is so desperately needed in our world? And will I do it with no agenda, complete attention and no price tag?

5 thoughts on ““I Will Listens to Your Problems for $2.00”

  1. You have no idea how many times I have considered going to counseling–not because I need it, but because I just want someone to listen to what I am saying and really “get” it. I guess that is why I pray more now; God listens!

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    1. It’s so true! And you’re right, ultimately God is the ultimate listener, but the way we are wired makes that human connection critical. Thanks for commenting.

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  2. As store chains like Blockbuster and Borders & Books close down more of the human contact is being lost. I loved renting my DVDs from Blockbusters and have a pleasant chat about movies with one of the college students working there. Even better sitting in the cafe at Borders and Books previewing some books and as questions arose engaging in a pleasant chat with the personnel. As human contact vanishes and I am forced into cyber space, I might consider to talk to the homeless person for $2,– in exchange.

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    1. It’s so true Petra! Just across the street from where I work the big borders is closing. Even though it’s a big chain, there are big arm chairs and real people helping you find books and DVD’s. And you’re right the homeless man may have a thriving business going in no time. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

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