The Power of Listening

Over the last few weeks I have been reminded of the importance of one’s story and so I made a conscious effort whenever I am out on the street to learn about people’s stories. Everyone has a story and every story is powerful. There was a definitive moment during one of these meetings which absolutely confirmed this statement.

Whilst volunteering on the soup vans distributing hot pies and sausage rolls to people in most need, I noticed a man standing timidly in …the back. When the line finally cleared, the man approached shyly and whilst picking out a pie for himself, he helped to clean the trays which were left messy by the people prior.

I thanked the man for his help and noticed that he may have wanted to chat so I extended my hand and introduced myself. Kevin* shook my hand, he didn’t say much, but also didn’t walk away either, so I followed through by telling him about my story. He eventually opened up and told me that he came from the UK with his wife and young son. He spoke proudly of his bright young son and his son’s achievements in school. The story turned sour when he told me that he has not seen his wife or son for a year and has since turned to alcohol. Kevin told me about his housing situation and his circumstances.

The conversation was deep and honest. Kevin told me that since arriving in Australia he only had his small family and now has no one. No family. No friends. No one to talk to. He questioned me over and over again why anyone would be interested in hearing his story. Why am I giving him so much attention? It was not something he was used to. But by the time we were about to leave, Kevin found a smile within him and at the same time I offered him a hug.

I’m still not sure if the hug was a good idea, but because he nodded, we hugged and then we both started tearing up. He told me that he had not received a hug in years and now that he has one, it wasn’t from his wife or son, but from a complete stranger. This is again such a beautiful reminder of the power of touch.

Everyone deserves to have their story heard. Everyone’s story is important. And the best thing about stories is that they are free to share and a wonderful way to connect with people. I hope that through sharing stories with each other, Kevin gained as much from the experience as I did.

Since our first encounter, Kevin has been returning to the same soup van location to meet me and the other wonderful volunteers. Like for many others, it isn’t the tangible services that brings us together each week, it’s the friendship. I hope you will find a moment to share stories with someone who hasn’t been heard.

Soup Vans 2

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