Monday, March 17, 2014

Listen. Really Listen. Really Really Listen.

As I wrote in my last post, I recently wrote an article about peacemaking practices that was printed in the most recent JustFaith publication.  The lead-up to the four practices was a telling of a part of my story - what led me to Palestine and a little about my experiences there.

Today I was sitting at my desk when my phone rang.  I answered, "Hi, this is Cory."

"Hi, Cory. My name is Bernard..." After he introduced himself, his parish, and his history with JustFaith, he told me he didn't want to take up too much of my precious time, so he'd just get to the point. Then he told me about his strong Catholic faith and his family's military service.

I still wasn't quite sure where the conversation was going, until he brought up my article and his question. "How many Jews do you know who have strapped on bombs and killed people?"  My heart started beating faster.

He didn't pause long enough for me to answer, but told me his thoughts about Israel and World War II. After talking a few moments more, he paused, clearly waiting for me to answer.

I took a deep breath. "Are you interested only in suicide bombings or do you want to know about all the people who've been killed?" I explained that far more Palestinians have been killed by Israelis, in fact far more violence in general has been done to Palestinians by Israelis than to Israelis by Palestinians. I was ready to continue, but he cut me off. In his defense, I'll tell you that during our entire conversation, he spoke passionately but calmly.

"What are your sources?" he asked.

"The UN has put out reports, B'Tselem -"

"I don't want anything from the UN. They're anti-Catholic and I don't trust anything they say." While I know some people aren't keen on the UN, I'd never heard anyone say that it is anti-Catholic.

"If Americans Knew has great information..."

"No, what was the other one you said before?"

"B'Tselem.  It's an Israeli organization doing excellent human rights reporting. You can also look at CPT's website and Breaking the Silence.  There's also -"

"I'm in my 80s and I'm not going to look at all that information. I'll look at the Israeli one you gave me." He asked me to spell it.  I did.

He went on to tell me about the work he's done as a result of going through the JustFaith program, about his faithful devotion to our Lord and Savior and the Blessed Mother.  He told me that Israel has a lot of Nobel Prize winners that I should investigate and that there is good reason for the country's strong military and went on to tell me those reasons. He said he'd take a look at B'Tselem and decide for himself. He told me he wouldn't take up any more of my precious time and hung up.

I would have liked to respond to his comments.  However, he did not give me much chance and I didn't want to interrupt him.

Today was my day to practice listening.  Really listening.  Really really listening to someone who spoke from his life experience and knowledge and challenged the experiences that I have lived. The Truth is bigger than both of us. And no doubt our individual narratives fit into it somehow.

I have no idea if I'll hear from him again. I am glad that Bernard called me, seeking more information.  Though I wasn't so pleased in the moment, I am glad that I got a chance to practice what I preach. The truth of the matter is that I have a long way to go to perfect my listening skills.

Thanks, Bernard. Thanks for giving me a call today.Thanks for trying to live your faith.  Thanks for giving me a chance to try to live mine a little better, too. 

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