Listening with Understanding and Empathy ... one of Chester's specialties.
Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Understanding: sympathetic awareness
Listening: Give one's attention to a sound
I thought back to the first time I noticed this incredibly sensitive side to Chester. How he could sense how people were feeling and be so present with them.
I told the students about when Chester was just a little pup. Lapsize, probably 12 weeks old, a little bundle of fur! We went to visit our friends who lived down the street from us, Sherm and Jackie. We walked into their home, and before I knew it Chester had nestled in, right next to Sherm’s chair, leaning into his knee. Then… Chester placed his big puppy paws on Sherm’s leg, wanting a boost up onto his lap. I asked my friend, who was almost 80 years old, how he was feeling.
“Actually, I’m not feeling so well," he explained, " I am having back surgery tomorrow and I am in a lot of pain.”
Somehow, it seemed that Chester knew……. and remained close to Sherm's side for our entire visit. Often, no words are needed to convey kindness, understanding, and empathy.
From puppyhood to last week.
Last week, Chester and I were in the office, ready to head to 1st grade. As I often say, the most meaningful moments can happen while you're on your way.... In walks the school secretary, gently holding the hand of a little kindergartner who was having a very rough start to his day. We’ve all been there :( . Big ole tears were streaming down his little face, giant sobs erupting. You know those gasping sounds that leak out when you're crying so hard that you can hardly find a breath...well that's where this little guy was stuck.
No words seemed to help. No hugs seemed to quiet his pain.
“Would you like to pet Chester?” asked the kind woman holding his hand.
He shook his head, NO...but did not take his eyes off of Chester.
Chester waited. Patiently. Very close by.
…..I knelt down next to Chester, and waited.
Slowly the boy drew closer and placed his little hand atop Chester’s soft furry head. Giant tears were sliding down his face. Deep sobbing breaths. He looked so little. And so sad. He wasn’t much taller than Chester.
“I ……. h-h-h-a-v-e……a……..d-d-d-o-g-g-g," he sobbed. (It is hard to talk when you are sobbing)
“You do?” I answered softly.
Chester stood, not moving a muscle…. Except for a gently swishing tail.
Slowly the tears subsided, breathing calmed. Whatever was the source of the great sadness, began to fade. Chester's love became bigger. And for the next few minutes, while the entire office staff watched jaw-dropped at this unfolding miracle, a little boy gently massaged Chester’s head and whispered tales of his own dog at home into soft listening ears.
The sun came out………… tears were dried …… and off we trotted to first grade.