Inspired by Syrian Refugees: The Greatest Gift You Can Give ~ Listen

Yesterday I was visiting with a woman whose husband and daughter had recently returned from a mission trip where they were helping Syrian refugees.

The refugees were primarily middle class families that left everything behind (homes, jobs, family, treasured keepsakes, toys…) and fled for their lives.

With no income and winter coming their physical needs are astronomical!

Syrian refugee crisisSo both the husband and daughter were shocked when they discovered that the biggest need these people shared was not physical….

What they all needed more than anything else was to have someone sit and listen to their story. They needed someone to hear about:

  • The bombings
  • The inability to trust those around them
  • The soldiers coming to their homes in the middle of the night threatening to kill the entire family because their child was in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • The chaos
  • The confusion
  • The fear
  • Their decision to leave
  • The journey to escape
  • Their new reality
  • Their grief and loss
  • Their concern for other family members and friends
  • Their present reality
  • The unknown future

They needed human connection.  They needed love. They needed prayers.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia

Now pause and let that sink in.

  • Have you ever had the opportunity to hear someone’s story and missed it?  (I have.)
  • Have you ever listened to another human being that has been through a heart-breaking experience and felt like you haven’t done enough?  (I have.)

In the midst of looking back and pondering my historical actions, I see places I wish I had done more.  At the same time, I find more encouragement in this story than regret – as one of my greatest struggles in this new land has been wondering how to make a difference here.

As I let this story sink in, I’ve identified many times in my life where all I had to give was my ears, my heart, a gentle touch, a hug, and a prayer.  (A gift I always value when others share it with me, but a gift I too often discount when I am sharing it.)

What an encouragement to be reminded that what I think is small and insignificant may be the very thing the other person needs the most. 

It is interesting to note that after I typed this story up, I was reminded how a veteran responded when I asked How can civilians do a better job of understanding and supporting Veterans and their families?”  And he too emphasized the importance of listening with this reply,

“The best thing a civilian can do is to listen to the Soldier and appreciate the sacrifices they made for our country.”  David Groce

If you’re already doing this for others ~ Be encouraged you are making a difference.

If not, will you make a focused effort to give someone this simple gift?  …When your family, your co-workers, your neighbors, the person in line at the grocery store or the stranger at the airport is near you simply and intentionally tune in.

Your Turn!  iStock_000009905754XSmallWill you share a time that someone tuned into you and it made a difference?  Have you ever been changed by tuning into someone else?

“Every human being has a great yet often unknown gift to care, to be compassionate, to become present to the other, to listen, to hear and to receive. If that gift would be set free and made available, miracles could take place…”  Henri Nouwen

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Want more?  Check out these additional articles about how listening impacts those that have been heard, those that have listened and even how it has impacted businesses.

Image Credit:  iStock & Susan Poirier

President, Giana Consulting

Chery Gegelman is an adventurer that loves to learn. ...Deep conversations, books, travel, and daily living are all food for growth.

As a speaker, facilitator and workshop leader she creates energizing environments that reflect God's grace, tear down walls, help people to consider new perspectives, and inspire change.

Chery is the Founder of Giana Consulting and Conversation Safari's, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two leadership books.

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11 thoughts on “Inspired by Syrian Refugees: The Greatest Gift You Can Give ~ Listen

  1. Fantastic and touching post Cheryl. Absolutely agree we forget in our daily rigmarole how much a smile, a kind word, a hug and an ear to listen can mean.

    I think today more than ever our world needs this. I know it makes a difference because people have given me that and I have given that & continue to give it to people.

    Thank you for a lovely post and a beautiful reminder

  2. Thanks Chery, very inspiring and important message. Stepping in the Humanitarian field, at least once to do the ordinary food-serving and listening – people say more while eating and retain more while eating- will change the way you listen forever.

    • Lydia, Thank you for your comment! I agree that people tend to talk more when food is involved and that we should all serve at least once in our lives. I am also developing the theory that if we open our ears and really listen we will be moved to some type of action! Your comment makes me think you have a story about serving.. Would you share?

  3. Hi, Chery.

    What a great post!

    I think the thing that resonated with me the most was “What an encouragement to be reminded that what I think is small and insignificant may be the very thing the other person needs the most.”

    I know that your calls and messages to me when Frank died were huge to me. Simply being reminded that in the midst of my crisis, someone cared and was praying helped me in reconnecting when I could finally “see through the pain” again.

    So, yes. What may seem little to us at the time can have a life-altering effect on others. And thank you for doing that! Consider yourself hugged, lady! 🙂

    • Thank you Tara! For the encouragement on the post and for the comment about sharing your season of struggle. I was thinking about you earlier this week. Thinking that for many people the most broken season of their lives becomes their mission, their purpose, their career… In your words ~ The Best Is Yet To Come!

  4. Hi Chery,

    What a beautiful and important message. Thank you for the insight and inspiration! And the timing is perfect. I think I will use “just listen” as my mantra this holiday season.


    • Susan ~ Thank you for your comment! I think your “just listen” mantra through the holidays could make a great story! I would love to hear what you learn! Consider Yourself Hugged!

  5. This is such a powerful post, Chery and really inspired me to think of who I gave my undivided attention to because they really needed it!

    This may sound crazy but when I was in a food store over the weekend one of the dairy workers just started talking to me about his challenged eye sight. He went on and on about not being able to use his glasses driving and how frustrated that made him feel. I just lingered by the yogurts and thought he just wanted someone to share his story and frustrations with. It took a little time out of my day, but he felt happy at the end to just be able to talk to someone.


    • Terri ~ I smiled as I read your story! I don’t think it is crazy at all! I am so glad you saw him and heard him. Who knows how you impacted his life!!! I’ve read a story several times about two boys walking home from school one day, one of is carrying lots of books and drops them. The other offers to help and ends up walking the other boy home. Years later at graduation the valedictorian shares how that moment, kept him from killing himself that day. (The story has a lot more detail but you get the idea… We may never know – at least not on this side of heaven – how we helped someone!)