I step down as a director of the Listening Post Anchorage in 2 days, a organization I founded and have directed for 11 years. I remember when I first heard about this way of being with the homeless in Vancouver B.C., it was the most immediate and clear guidance I have ever had about my purpose. I knew without a doubt that this is what I would do in my community. It came after I had left the role of parish pastor without knowing what was next. And this feels very similar. I have no clear plan or vision or call except that–to have no clear plan or vision or call. I trust what is next will come just like the Listening Post did. But this time, I wonder if there won’t be anything as tangible as creating the Listening Post. I have this uneasy feeling that I may be called to the most unfamiliar task of all for a time–just being still and going slow.
The Listening Post has been schooling me in these practices. Sitting with our guests one on one for these years has slowly sanded down my incessant need of always doing. Sitting still and waiting for a guest to begin to speak or to just be silent has lessened my need to interject or interrupt. So perhaps I’ve been on this path all along and now I’m groomed for this way of being. I have written and taught and preached and been interviewed dozens of times about the Listening Post. It intrigues people. It makes them curious. It seems so simple. Sometimes I wonder if people respond to this idea because it touches that primordial place in us, that wild natural place in us where we remember the depth of silence. I think of my own time in wilderness where I can listen so hard to silence and how resounding it is. There is no comparing or judging or competition or need or defense or assumptions. It is just attuning to what is. What I continue to learn is that listening is never the wrong thing to do. Even if one is called to speak out or advocate, listening comes first. It is so powerful and it is so tender.
Thousands of people have stopped to talk with us at the Listening Post. I’m guessing it’s around 30,ooo visits now. And hundreds have joined me as volunteers in this organization. Some for a few months, some for several years. And hundreds more have taken listening training. We have helped spawn several listening sites in other cities over the years from Ontario to California. I never could have imagined that when I created the Listening Post in Anchorage. And thus I can’t imagine and I don’t know what potential lies ahead. But I will always be a listener and live the listening life, and feel this tremendous humility that I got to be part of such a vision. It is and will continue be such a unique act of loving.