Nourish Your Soul in the Heart of Your Home

Nourish Your Soul in the Heart of Your Home

Important things happen in the kitchen, the heart of your home. Sure, it’s where families gather to seek physical nourishment, and that’s not unimportant. But it’s also a good place to nourish our souls by simply sharing the human experience. And the way we humans do this best is by sharing the stories of our days and the dreams of our nights; our failures as well as our successes; and our fears as well as our aspirations.

But it’s not enough merely to listen, or merely to be heard. That’s simply communicating. What’s important is that we understand, and that we be understood.

Once my mother sent me to the grocery store with instructions that were simple, or so I thought: “Please bring home one gallon of milk, and if they have any lemons, get 3.” It turns out they indeed had lemons, so I returned home with 3 gallons of milk, just as instructed. I’m a stickler for details, you see, but too often I get the details right, but I miss the big picture. It was easier for me to execute her literal request than to think through what Mom was really saying, or better, what she meant to say.

Fortunately, it was no big deal. We consumed all 3 gallons of milk before any went bad. But that’s not always the case when we humans prove our fallibility. Consider the case of our neighbors across the street – Mr. and Mrs. McDonald. Growing up, I was a close friend of three of their boys, and I will never forget this story. Mr. McDonald, backing out of the driveway, asked Mrs. McDonald, riding shotgun, for assistance, “Is it ok, or is someone coming?” After a quick look around, she answered both questions, “No, one’s coming,” with an ever-so-slight pause after the comma. You guessed it. Hearing that on one was coming, Mr. M proceeded to back into oncoming traffic and was none too pleased to remember that Mrs. M, like me, is a literal thinker. Who’s to blame? You decide; I know better than to get involved in disputes between neighbors, especially when they happen to be married to each other.

In this example there was a lot more to lose than a few bucks at risk should milk spoil. Fortunately, neither Mr. or Mrs. M suffered injury beyond a bruised ego. Nonetheless, this story is a good reminder that we must take the time and exert the effort necessary to ensure that our intended message is heard and understood, and if on the receiving end, that our interpretation is accurate. When in doubt, remember these simple words of clarification, “So let me get this straight.”

Here’s one more equally humorous, inconsequential story of miscommunication that could have easily turned out otherwise. J. Edgar Hoover, the long-time head of the FBI, was a stickler for well constructed inter-office memos. Among other things, he appreciated wide margins that could easily accommodate his responses to authors and notes to follow-on readers. One day, in receipt of a memo concerning national security that crammed so many words onto each page that he barely had room to pencil his comments, Hoover expressed his disdain by noting on the memo, “Watch the borders,” and returning it to its sender. Upon reading this warning from the famed and feared Director of the FBI, the memo’s author proceeded to clamp down security at all U.S. borders.

We’re all confident communicators, certain that our messages are clear and well understood. But all too often they are not. The next time you find yourself in the heart of your home telling and listening to stories of the day, make extra effort to ensure that you have conveyed or received the intended message. A small measure of clarifying or paraphrasing can help avoid simple misunderstandings that could lead to milk going rotten, dented fenders and bruised egos, and maybe even unnecessary border actions. Happy story telling.

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