It seems we are in full gear of the pending holiday season: Christmas lights are going up, holiday music is playing on the radio, stores are having sales, and signs are out advertising cookie walks and live nativities. There are lots of ways to celebrate the holidays. We cook, we bake, we shop, we entertain, we go to concerts and shows, and maybe we take time to walk down the streets in Rochester or Royal Oak. Most of us will be out amongst people at one point or another. When you're standing in line at the post office or sitting at a table in a coffee shop you need to 'stop and listen'. Listen to the sounds of the season. Listen past the music on the radio or the honking car horns on the street. Listen deeper and think about what you're hearing. You might hear the giggles of an anxious child as they stand in line at the mall to see Santa, you might hear someone who sounds distinctly like Scrooge yelling at the salesperson because they didn't like the price they paid for something, you might hear someone discussing their Christmas wish list, or you might hear people gossiping. The last one is the probably one of the saddest.
Today I made a run to Target then decided to grab a quick bite at a local fast food restaurant before pressing on to Kroger's for groceries. As I sat there eating my McDouble (please don't judge) I couldn't help but overhear the conversation of 3 high schoolers sitting at a nearby table. Teenagers have a knack for talking louder (not sure if that is intentional or not). The entire time I was there they were talking about other people. I never once heard them discuss themselves, only judging the other people they came across. 'Who does that girl think she is anyway? She's always in 'my' hallway. I mean seriously... she's not even in my class. Why is she even there?'
As the parent of a teenager I spend a good deal of time around kids, but the conclusion I've come up with is that people (of all ages) judge others. It's not age exclusive. Some may tell you they're above it, but if you really stop and listen you'll hear it. You'll hear it at your child's school, at your church, at a restaurant, at a booster or PTO meeting, at your job, at the mall, at the grocery store ... need I go on? I try to be aware of my own actions but catch myself being human as well - go figure.
Do you judge or criticize or critique your friends, your family, your co-workers, your neighbors, or more importantly strangers? Stop and listen to those around you. Hear what is really being said. Now stop and listen to yourself. Is everything you say free of gossip and judgement?
Christmas is the season of peace, love, joy and hope. Perhaps it's also a good season for reflection, for change, and for self-improvement. As the Christmas season draws nearer, let us all take the time to truly stop and listen. If given your choice ... what would you like to hear?