The story of the water boy

One line in Webster’s Dictionary separates two words that could not be farther apart in meaning.

Listen: to hear something with thoughtful attention.

Listless: characterized by lack of interest, energy, or spirit.

Listen with your ears to the sounds, the quiet, and the stories.

Listen with your eyes. Hear what they see.

Listen with your hands. Feel what they are telling you.

Listen with your mind. Let it decipher, think, and then and only then, let it communicate thought and ideas for the tongue to speak.

This should be a process measured in years rather than minutes. For the art of listening, especially for those with lots to say, is one of the greatest self-disciplines we can teach ourselves.

After a helping of chicken and rice, topped off with a generous pile of gravy, we raked our plates into the back yard. That would be breakfast for the first chickens out of the coop. I watched diligently through the evening meal, always one mouthful behind Grandpa and Josh, to make sure I could rake my plate in unison with my two heroes.

My job after that was to fetch that cool, rattlesnake watermelon from the depths of our artesian well. Grandpa was always thinking ahead. When a long day in the field was planned, he would set a melon in a bucket and lower it into the well early in the morning.

“That was a whole nuther story,” as Josh used to say. It was his day to thump, then Grandpa’s. The debate continued over who picked the best melon on days gone by. Then one day they let me pick, and Josh kinda guided me with his eyes. While toting’ water in the field all day, I worried about whether or not I had picked a winner. That ol’ Josh smile after dinner let me know I had done well.

“Don’t know Frank, might have picked this one just a tad too soon.” He would pull out that pocketknife he called “Ol’ Betsy” and gently cut through the rind. “Don’t know Bo, we might have us a winner here.” My heart would pound, waiting for Josh’s approval. When she flopped open and Josh announced this just might be the pick of the litter, I was floating on cloud nine. I could thump a melon with the pros!

Then I listened…stories, sayings, problems, ways to solve problems, jokes, good things, tough things, soft things, fun things.

Then it was time for bed. I wanted Grandpa and Josh to stay just like they were forever. That was my prayer on those nights. I just wanted to grow up, catch up with them, and be just like them — the three of us. I grew older and they passed on. But I listened. I am just like them most of the time so part of my prayers came true. Just by listening, I learned values and philosophies that will last me a lifetime. There are other Josh’s’ and Grandpas out there — LISTEN.

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