Home and Garden

The Art of Visiting

By  | 

Over 1,000,000 Viewers

I grew up at a time when people actually communicated with one another. Face to face. My parents taught me the valuable lesson of how important it is to talk, share, and care about each other through meaningful conversation. This was a time when technology had not gotten to the point of running our lives. We were actually dialed into each other. My parents referred to this human interaction that was not driven by any special occasion, as “visiting”.

It seemed like nearly every Sunday after church, we would go together to visit with aunts, uncles, friends, or other family members. I especially remember with great fondness those trips to visit with my dad’s Aunt Martha and Uncle Sonny who lived about an hour away from us. I would excitedly ask why we were going to their house, and my parents would always simply reply, “just to visit”.
My sisters and I felt welcome to participate in the conversations the adults were having. It made me feel so important and the “old folks” actually talked about interesting things! Never once did it seem as though we were at a relative’s house out of obligation. Every once and awhile there would be a moment of silence where everyone would just sit on the couch and smile, without saying a word. Then someone would make a smooth transition to another topic.

As I write this piece, I recall that we genuinely seemed interested in what each other had to say. They were always engaged in the moment. No rudely reaching for their smart phones, iPads, laptops, or the TV remote control. This was pure conversation, without any interruptions. No video games anywhere to be seen or heard. Many of those distractions that vie for our attention weren’t on the market yet, so we actually “had” to speak directly to one another. As a young girl back then, I had the feeling that screamed love and respect for each other. It was so beautiful, never boring as we gave each other our undivided attention.

I learned this compassionate way of caring, making eye contact with others, and the art of visiting, from my mom and dad. The art of visiting comes with practice. One has to listen without judging, or to predict a story’s outcome with a self-centered interruption. It never was “about me” when someone else shared an experience I could relate to. In the end, the art of visiting is really about listening. To listen with your eyes, your ears, your heart, your love. It’s about empathy.

How often do you pretend to listen when someone is talking to you? Or forgetting what someone says to you in that very moment because you were too busy thinking about what you were going to say next? Do you have your smart phone in your hand as you feign listening to the person right in front of you while texting someone else?

Even to this day, my parents display a mastery of the art of visiting/listening. They still do it! We all just sit in a room, maybe with some music playing, or perhaps a news or sports program on in the background. Sometimes what happens in the game or is mentioned on the news sparks discussion in the room. But when someone starts to talk, that is always more important than the talking heads in the background. Besides, no television pundit paid to spout an opinion has ever imparted more wisdom to me than the people I care most about.

During the holiday season, we may come in to contact with many friends and family that we don’t see as often as we like. I often wonder if our society has become so good at pretending to care, pretending to listen, or pretending to love; that those around us close down without us even knowing or realizing. Look at what happened in Charleston, South Carolina. Let’s make an extra effort to ask how are loved ones are doing and give them the respect of truly listening to what they have to say. Checking your email, posting something on Facebook or Instagram can wait until you get home.
The skill of active visiting is a dying art not meant just for family outings, but should be part of who we are as human beings. I mean, when was the last time you REALLY stopped to listen…with your heart, to someone without anything in your hand or head when at a social event or work related activity? Try it, you might like it. In fact, I would wager you would fast become the most interesting person in the room!

Technology has been both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it allows us to do and experience so many things in the blink of an eye. Technology is supposed to make us more efficient, yet it seems like we have less time in a day than ever before. Unlike my parents’ generation, we always seem to be in a rush. I am concerned about all of the technology driven stuff is driving a wedge between us as human beings and hampering our ability to truly get to know one another on a level like my parents and their friends seem to know one other. Perhaps we don’t have as many stories as the “old folks” do because we have never taken the time to actually visit with others. They are more like brief encounters.

I encourage us all, as we open our homes and gardens, to really practice listening; and spend this holiday season consciously with those around us. Perhaps we can all start by putting our phones down. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you. Personally, I am praying for eye to eye/heart to heart contact during the holidays.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply