From Nashville – Listen
The theme of this year’s Association of Personal Historians conference is “Listen.” When I looked up the word listen in the dictionary, the main definition was “hear” although there was a footnote explainig that: “to listen is to try to hear; to hear is simply to perceive with the ear.” I’m glad they added that footnote since listening definitely is an art form that few people have the presence to practice.
Life is a rich banquet and for most of us, dining with family and friends is much more enjoyable than the experience of dining alone. In yesterday’s board meeting, outgoing President Jeanne Archer advised us to ‘hear with our ears but listen with our eyes.” I would like to add to that the concept of listening with our hearts. Jeanne recounted a comment from a previous conference attendee who said to her upon leaving, “my soul fills my body.” When we are fully present to other people and experiences and truly listen with our hearts, we leave the table full and well fed. This woman clearly left the conference well fed with her soul fully nourished.
This morning’s keynote speaker, James Walsh, is a professor of history at the University of Colorado in Denver. His presentation was truly a rich banquet and I don’t think one of us left that room without being profoundly moved. He recounted that as a student, he didn’t particularly share in class. When he told one of his own professors he didn’t know why he didn’t share in class, he was asked, “Who else will see the world through your eyes? If you don’t share the view from up there, who will know what it looks like from there?” This exchange transformed his life and he has gone on to become a teacher who focuses on the experience of sharing stories as part of exploring history. He told several anecdotal stories of his students as well as read excerpts of some of their writings. In the closing of his presentation, he shared that through the years, his students were his teachers and he felt that he learned way more from them then they, perhaps learned from him. He said, “their stories nourished me and I carry them with me.” Clearly Mr. Walsh listens and teaches from the heart.
On a different note, I did make it into downtown Nashville last night for dinner and to listen to some jazz at the BB King Jazz Club. My dining companion, Larry Lehmur, who is also blogging from the conference, had a fried salad. I’ve never heard of this before and we were expecting a block of breaded and deep fried salad to come to the table. It turns out that it was really a regular salad with some chicken tenders on top. I have never seen, or eaten, so much fried food in my life as in Nashville. We all shared fried green tomatoes and fried cheese. Talk about nourishing my soul!
Stefani Twyford is a personal historian and video biographer sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.