Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Learn to listen, really listen April 20, 2017

I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A MAJOR proponent of the art of listening. Listening differs from hearing, which is a physical act. Listening requires close attention to what is being spoken.

I don’t hear well due to a severe sensorineural hearing loss in my right ear. If I walk into a room and someone says hello, I may not hear. And if I do hear, I will scan the room to determine the location of the speaker. I can’t pinpoint sound sources. Put me in a group of people carrying on multiple conversations or before someone speaking too softly and I struggle to hear. Add music or white noise (like a fan or air conditioner or furnace) and I won’t hear anything. Whisper into my right ear and I won’t hear you.

For six years now I’ve dealt with this severe permanent hearing loss. And no, a hearing aid won’t help. My brain processes sound at a slower rate if at all. Every single day I need words repeated to me because I simply do not hear them. It is frustrating and difficult. But I manage.

While an unexplained cause (likely a virus, so my ENT team surmised) forever altered my ability to hear, I remain committed to the art of listening. It is a skill I honed decades ago, first as an introverted child and later as I studied journalism and worked as a newspaper reporter. To be a good journalist, you have to be a good listener.

 

My column on trustworthiness, courtesy of The Virtues Project, Faribault.

 

I use that skill of listening beyond my chosen profession as a writer. I practice good listening in my everyday life and consider myself a good listener. I wrote on the topic of listening as it relates to the virtue of trustworthiness for The Virtues Project, Faribault. The Virtues Project is a “global initiative to inspire the practice of virtues in everyday life.” Virtues like honesty, understanding, caring, respect and more are being addressed each week in columns published in the Faribault Daily News. This was my week to write on trustworthiness in a column titled “Learn to Listen, Really Listen.”

From 10 a.m. to noon this Saturday, The Virtues Project, Faribault Team will expand on listening during a workshop on “The Art of Companioning.” That process is defined as “just listen to a person when they are sharing their story—without judgment, expectations, or fixing. Often times a hearing ear is just what the other person really wants, and when we do that, we are giving the person a chance to come up with their own solution.” The event will be held in the Buckham Memorial Library Great Hall in Faribault and is open to all at no cost. We could all benefit from learning and implementing the art of companioning.

TELL ME: Do you consider yourself to be a good listener? Why?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Everyone poops & other examples of positivity in Minnesota February 8, 2017

My great niece Kiera painted this stone, which I got at a recent family reunion.

My great niece Kiera painted this stone that lies on my office desk as a visual reminder of hope. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

WHEN GLOBAL, NATIONAL, state, local and personal issues leave us feeling sad, overwhelmed and anxious, it’s all too easy to give up hope. But it’s precisely the time we most need to search out the positive and shift our focus away from the negative. It’s the time we most need to appreciate one another.

Beautiful flowers for a graduate.

A gift of flowers is always welcome, special occasion or not. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

So I searched for a few positive actions to share with you from southern Minnesota.

Read a book to a child, just like Officer Goodman. Listen to him read Everyone Poops in a February 3.

Read a book to a child, just like Officer Goodman. Listen to him read Everyone Poops in a February 3.

Without hesitation, I turned first to the Kenyon Police Department Facebook page, an ongoing source of inspirational, thought-provoking and often humorous pieces by Police Chief Lee Sjolander. Today I direct you to Officer Goodman’s bedtime story, Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi, read by Goodman (a puppet voiced by none other than the Chief). Everyone poops. They sure do.

A scoop shovel worked best for removing this snow. I shovel where the snowblower can't go.

If you live in a snowy state like me, consider shoveling or blowing snow from a neighbor’s driveway and sidewalk. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

East of Kenyon, writer Rosie Schluter is doing her part at the local weekly, The Cannon Falls Beacon. She notes “some of the good things” in a Pebble-Ripple column. Kindness, she writes, can cause a ripple effect. She cites a teacher who directed her students to share a kindness on a paper chain. She cites a neighbor who picks up mail for an elderly neighbor. And on her blog, Along the way, Rosie gives more examples. Often it’s the little things that make all the difference.

A perfect Valentine's Day weekend treat.

Consider baking valentine cookies to gift to someone. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

At the blog Ever Ready, my friend Sue is featuring “Pay It Forward” acts of kindness daily during February. She suggests baking and packaging cookies in valentine bags to share with others. She suggests shoveling snow for others. She suggests surprising someone with a handwritten thank you note. All are great ideas that can uplift and bring joy.

A little girl stands on the opposite side of the group of children waiting to swing at the pinata.

Children can teach us so much about acceptance. This is one of my favorite images, shot several years ago at the International Festival Faribault. Children took turns swinging a stick at a pinata. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Finally, in my community, The Virtues Project Faribault was implemented last year to “inspire the practice of virtues in everyday life.” One aspect of that project is a virtues column published weekly in the local daily newspaper and on the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism website. Local residents write on virtues such as cooperation, tolerance and peacefulness. To read the thoughts and ideas of others in my community has truly been insightful, encouraging and positive.

A handwritten thank you card is always a good way to show your appreciation for someone.

A handwritten thank you note is always a good way to show your appreciation for someone.

TELL ME: How are you choosing and showing positivity?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling