Do You Need Your Shoes Shined? Do You Practice “Story-Listening”?
Confession time: I don’t think I’m a very good listener. My mind is racing constantly. Instead of listening, I am trying to think of how I am going to respond – or (sad fact) I might be thinking about how utterly tragic it is that American Idol is cancelled after next season, or what I’m going to eat for lunch (mmmm, frozen yogurt). I am not proud of this and it’s something that I need to work on. Really. I pledge to do better.
I thought about this after watching a great four-minute video with Peter Drury, the Director of Strategy at Splash, an organization that ensures safe water in many parts of the world. Dury was presenting at last year’s Nonprofit Storytelling Conference.
At the beginning of his remarks he said that maybe more important than “storytelling,” we should be about “story listening.”
Dury went on to say, “Story listening: it’s about open-ended questions, it’s about body language, it’s about presence.” He even sounded downright Jesus-y – “If we were in a theological context, we’d talk about the ministry of presence. The real dignity you can bring to a conversation by being present.” Jesus would like that.
And here, ladies and gentleman, is an excellent example of that very thing.
Rev. Robin Yim of Twin Falls United Methodist Church in Idaho gave me permission to share his recent Facebook post:
As I was walking down a street near my hotel here in Denver, I heard a man say to me, "Sir, you lost something." I turned around to look, but didn't see anything. Then he told me I'd lost the shine on my shoes and offered to shine them for $5. I had the loveliest time getting my shoes shined. He's been working at that corner for 17 years. And he gave me a lesson in faith-based shoe stewardship: "Your shoes were made from the skins of animals God made, so honor God and those animals by keeping your shoes shined."
Rev. Yim could have brushed off the shoeshine man. He could have saved himself time and $5. But, he took a chance at being a “story-listener” and because of that, Rev. Yim gave us all a great gift of his shoeshine encounter.
I talk a lot about the value of storytelling – but it has to be done in the context of story listening. If we don’t practice that ministry of presence…we risk missing the moment and the story. So, go on…find someone to shine your shoes today and then come back and tell your story.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. She is sure next year someone will ask her to audition for American Idol...and it's about time. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at email@example.com.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.