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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Conversation (face to face) (10/07/10)

TITLE: The Frugal Listener
By Dolores Stohler


Kristen entered the kitchen with a spring in her step. She was feeling sunnier than usual this morning (such a beautiful fall day!) and decided to surprise her husband with something special for breakfast. She found him seated at the table, engrossed in the newspaper.

“Good morning, Ken. I see you’ve already made the coffee,” she said, with approval in her tone. A grunt from Ken acknowledged her greeting.

“Now let me see. How about bacon and eggs for breakfast? I could make us a nice omelet.” No response.

“Or maybe some pancakes with fruit and maple syrup.”

“Fine. That’s just fine,” said Ken, not looking up from his paper.

Kristen bustled about and couldn’t find any pancake syrup. “That’s funny,” she said in a loud voice. “ I thought I bought syrup last week. It was on my list. Oh, well, I‘ll find something nice.”

More rummaging about and she approached the table, setting down a pitcher of milk and a bowl of blueberries, then a bowl of cereal at each place. Finally, she added a plate of buttered toast. Ken looked down at her offerings with a frown. “I thought you said we were having pancakes. This is the usual breakfast fare.” He shot her an accusatory look.

“If you’d been listening, you would have heard me say I couldn’t find the syrup. And we’re all out of eggs as well.”

Ken put down his paper with a disgusted look. “You‘re getting very forgetful. You need to start checking your stores and make a grocery list.”

“For your information, I do make a list and check things off as well. But it’s hard to manage with two small kids in tow.” Ken grunted again and spooned up some cereal, returning to the newspaper.

With a sigh and a look of pain, Kristen began to eat but there was a thoughtful look on her face. “You know, Ken,” she said, putting her hand on the paper to hold it down, “You’re a good husband but you need to be a better listener. Why, it’s nearly impossible to carry on a conversation with you. I could tell you what’s going on in the lives of all our friends but I’ll bet you know absolutely nothing about the private lives of your employees.”

“What’s to know? I hire them to do a job, not socialize.”

“But, honey, I’ve heard that a good leader is one who knows how to connect with people on a personal level and make them feel comfortable talking to him. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both had this quality of warmth and friendliness, Obama, too.”

“You’re telling me I’m not approachable?” Ken glared at her across the table. “I am an elder in the church. People respect me and I treat my employees well.”

“I’m not saying you aren’t a good boss. What I’m saying is that you’re too preoccupied with other things to be a good listener. How about trying a little experiment this morning? When you arrive at work, instead of just saying 'good morning' to whoever you pass in the hall, stop a minute and ask them about their family or their health. I challenge you to do that with each and every one of them and then tell me what you learn.”

“Alright,” said Ken, with a sigh. “If it‘ll make you happy, I‘ll do it.”

When Ken came home that night, he threw his briefcase onto the table and collapsed into the nearest chair. He had an air of defeat as he met Kristen‘s eyes. “Well, you’re welcome to say it. I know it’s coming.”

“Say what?”

“I told you so! Good God, Kristen, there isn’t a soul in my office who hasn‘t been hiding some kind of personal heartbreak. My secretary’s mother has cancer and it’s inoperable, my partner’s marriage is on the rocks and you know that good-looking kid whom the girls are so crazy about? Well, his best friend died in an auto accident last week.

After hearing all their stories, I sat at my desk and came to a tough decision. I called my staff in and told them we’re going to start with a half-hour prayer session in my office each morning. When they return to their desks, it’ll be with the knowledge that someone cares about them.” He gave a rueful smile and winked at his wife. “See, I’m not the ogre you’ve made me out to be.”

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This article has been read 576 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/21/10
I love the title! It is true so many of us just trudge through life without connecting to those around us. You did a good job showcasing your message.
Carol Penhorwood 10/21/10
I too love your title and your point was well made. Great story!
Lollie Hofer10/21/10
Ouch! You've been following me around lately, have you? I'm guilty of not noticing the important things since I'm so task oriented. This spoke directly to my heart. Excellent point to your story.
Amanda Brogan10/23/10
Great lesson learned here! It's so important to lay down our busy-ness every once and awhile and just be there to listen to people. I like how you ended it with Ken's decision to have a prayer meeting each day at work.

(P.S. The DJs at a radio station that I listen to are named Ken and Kristen. :) )
Genia Gilbert10/25/10
Very good approach to our conversation skills or lack therof. It is a stinging reminder, but with a good solution.
Jan Ackerson 10/25/10
I thought she was very wise to suggest a solution for her husband's workplace that could also work for their marriage.

I did think that some of their individual speeches were a bit stiffer than natural conversation would be.

Good job of reminding us that even our church workers have difficulties in communication.
Barbara Lynn Culler10/25/10
Great take on the topic. I kind of felt like I was watching a scene in the kitchen Of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo!

This would be great story to expand on and show us how the people reacted to his interest and how he reacted to their reactions!
Sarah Heywood10/27/10
Great title! I enjoyed this. Frankly, I was surprised that the husband took his wife's advice - he seemed kind of surly in the beginning. But good for him!