It started like a normal trip to the dog park — the evening was cool and calm…the air was warm but the breeze was cool enough to keep me comfortable.
Kipper was running around with other pups at the dog park and I was awkwardly standing around other folks around my age (who were clearly friends and interested in only talking about each other’s things) – and I was okay with standing there and listening.
Sometimes it is okay to just sit and listen.
Out of the left corner of my eye something catches me…a man.
An older man with a veteran’s hat on – slowly walking his small white dog into the dog park.
I could tell this man had a story…but I just sat and listened.
The group beside me excitedly yells ‘There’s Tinkles!’ – I sit and listened.
The older man has is careful and ever-watchful eye on ‘Tink’…slowly walking to the group.
I didn’t know his name, but he carefully walked up to the mesquite tree beside us and cut of a small branch, leaned over, and handed it over to his pup…standing there content.
I just sat and listened.
The younger group of folks continued to talk about their dogs, their cars, their savings accounts…school…you know – usual young people stuff.
The older man stood there smirking and listening.
I did too.
Slowly I inched closer to the man, keeping an eye on his eyes.
He was ever-watchful over his pup, you see…like she was part of him.
I asked him her name.
We stood there…listening.
Eventually the group of people leaves the park..leaving a nice bench under the tree open.
We gladly take it, me and this older man.
He begins to share his life with me.
It amazes me where this man had gone…what he’d seen, what he’d experienced.
He had so much to share.
I just sat and listened.
He would say ‘God Damn’ nearly ever other sentence.
Would tell me about ‘those religious folks’ and how ‘you know how they are’.
He talked about his wife of 27 years…his eyes changed when he spoke of her.
‘My wife’, he’d say with a slight smile and grin in his eye…’This was her dog..’
I could have gotten upset about him saying ‘God Damn’ or smack talking my God and people who claim my faith….but instead;
I sat and listened.
He served in the NAVY.
His office was upstairs from hers.
He won her over by dropping sweets off on her desk every day.
For over a year he did this…
Until he asked her for a drink and dinner at the General’s pub…
He discovered she was diabetic and would just scoop the candies in her drawers..never saying a word.
‘My wife was a sweetheart…’ He told me.
I sat and listened.
I finally got his name.
‘Beard, Zane Beard..’ – with confidence he knew his identity.
‘John Wylie is my name.’ – I got to tell him about myself.
I quickly asked him more about his wife, his journey, and if he had kids.
He has no children of his own.
He seemed okay with this, Zane, was sure of who he was.
Zane told me about the heartache of spreading his wife’s ashes.
The pain in his voice was real…he loved this woman.
He talked about her as if he would be able to go back home to her, and tell her about the young man he met at the dog park tonight…This broke me.
I sat and listened.
Zane told me about his experience working on big ships.
He told me he loved being busy. Even to this day, he wakes up early…even if he ‘doesn’t have to do a God Damn thing..!’
He isn’t sure why – but he just does it…This made us chuckle.
We laughed, we teared up, I choked up…he comforted me in many areas without knowing it…
Zane and I sat there on that special dog park bench for an hour and a half.
I got to tell him two things about me…my name and my hometown.
I was okay with this…
Because, you see,
Sometimes it is okay to just sit and listen.
This is so cool. I absolutely love it when people who seem so rough around the edges turn out to have felt love in life so deeply. It’s just one more way God shows us his sovereignty and uncontainability (is that a word?), throwing beautiful people like that in our paths. So so cool!
I love to sit and talk with veterans. Sometimes salty, sometimes coarse, ALWAYS real. Something about when a man goes to war he learns to shun all of the niceties of politically correct conversation, and it makes those conversations rich and vibrant, and maybe even easier to relate to.
It is more than OK to listen. We all need those who will just sit and listen to us and we all need to just sit and listen to others. We can learn so much by doing so.
Hey John – wonderful story. I too am a Navy veteran. Been married 28 years and have no children of my own and am okay with that, and am sure of who I am. We have a small dog, Roxie, and we take her to the dog park. Maybe one day I will get to tell some young kid my story. I hope he’s not to busy to just sit, listen…
Very nice story. I decided to read a blog or two of yours after seeing a tweet you posted recently. And I think I understand your point now in the tweet, (the one about saying gd) after having read your experience on the blog, and agree with your ideology for the most part. Although this man said gd often, you didn’t jump on him or judge him and ultimately run him off with a “better than thou” Christian attitude, that would have inadvertently pushed him further from God. And that man may not be far from God at all, maybe he was having a rough day and felt like saying those things, who knows what his walk is really like.. And I totally get what you are saying here (I think). You listened, shared a moment in this man’s life and perhaps opened a door, planted a seed, or at least, impacted this man’s life for the better.. by listening and not judging, by giving someone an opportunity to share himself with you. And even if you didn’t say you were a Christian to him, you acted like one, which is more important, and demonstrated to him that all people that love God are not all like the group of judgemental “religious” people that have probably hurt him in the past. I’m sure you received a blessing, too. But, had I not read your blog, and just the Twitter stuff, I wouldn’t have perceived the full thought of your point on Twitter (if, indeed, I am correctly perceiving your point). Twitter gives a small platform, unfortunately, for the deeper meaning behind the thought. After reading your blog, I easily see your point, but on Twitter, well, not as much and you have a lot of followers, but I doubt many of them would necessarily take the time, especially the younger ones, to go to your blog to further explore the idea. And some of the younger ones probably don’t have a firm foundation established in the teachings of the Bible yet, either. It would be a pity if even one of your many followers misunderstood your reasoning and interpreted it in any way that views profanity any less than what it is in God’s eyes, many things, I am sure, but certainly destructive to the speaker and those who hear it… or felt it a green light to go ahead with that kind of talk and behavior and feel okay with it because they don’t believe they fall in the category of the “unrighteous.” It’s not anything you said specifically (probably more of what wasn’t said) in your tweets; it is just a maybe unintentional implied notion that may allow some people to feel kind of off the hook, a little, if they do speak in a profane way because it implies God is a little more displeased with those out there who are “truly unrighteous” than just your every day users of profanity. And I don’t think a “lesser” offense should in any way be minimized or viewed as falling as somewhere as acceptable in our walk. Although we all have probably used profanity at some point in our lives and have said gd in a context not truly meaning in our heart to curse God, at all, (and not in the context of an oath, either) it still is not a justifiable deed to God any other sin. The new testament elaborates again and again on the importance of attempting to avoid profane language and speak only what is profitable. I do believe God loves and values a true and authentic person who is trying to know Him, and that along the way, as the person comes to know Him more, his desires become more attuned to God’s and things like using profanity start to bother him, when maybe at first in his walk, it didn’t, and in His own time, God transforms the person. I’ve seen it happen. God patiently loves and individually teaches us, convicts us, and transforms us at His pace and we are all on a different path. Jesus often spoke with extreme displeasure of the Pharisees and those who were prideful and haughty, dirty on the inside, but constantly attempting to appear righteous and clean on the outside. I don’t presume to know how God really feels about each individual and his/her sins. We are talking about the One who knows NO sin. Situation after situation the Bible has shown us that He is sorely displeased with hypocrisy and pride of people with black hearts and no compassion and feels love and compassion for the humble, repentant heart, no matter what his/her offenses might be but always, the heart must be willing and repentant, then He can begin to teach and transform and set free. I do believe that when I am before Him, I will be measured and found acceptable ONLY because of His grace, His gift, His sacrifice and not because I am standing by others who lived a more unrighteous life and make me look a little better. Because the Christian life in not measured by a benchmark of our level of unrighteousness compared to others, but on the only measurement that matters, Jesus, and He was without sin. So thank goodness for Grace!
So, just saying, comments like that on Twitter without the background of the idea can, to a person without much wisdom or biblical background, imply that those offenses (of profane language) aren’t top priority on the topic of ungodly living and may give a slight impression of justification that isn’t there.. the act should still be discouraged..and I don’t think, after reading your blog, that you meant, at all, to encourage it. But the younger people, especially, will read a tweet like that, quickly in passing, retweet it to people who don’t even follow you and never even explore the deeper thought and who knows how they will interpret it? Those that actually know God have seen light. He is continually guiding, patiently and lovingly teaching them in all of His ways, which really promotes a life of grace and peace of pure heart and mind. Those in the darkness who do not know Him know no other way to live than unrighteous living until light comes into their world, and nobody said it better than in the book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, “there is a core difference between sharing the gospel with the lost and imposing a specific moral standard on the unconverted.” Seems to me that that is what you are attempting to do… share without imposing a harsh moral standard, and I applaud it. However, I don’t think by doing this it means to minimize sin of any kind, or to attempt to lessen the meaning of it and what the Bible teaches about these things. The point is to be open to people and non judgemental, but be honest about what God teaches us about righteous living. It is what it is. Please realize, those of us out there who read a tweet like the one I am talking about, see those words without any explanation, well, frankly .. my first impression was that it looked like some kind of odd new age teaching. And believe me, I am definitely an “outside” the box person when it comes to my spiritual walk. So it isn’t like I am a rigid traditionalist that refuses to look and explore the Bible in different ways, but still, the tweet troubled me. Then I read your narrative about yourself and your passion for Jesus and the Bible. So I went ahead and read your blog.
Absolutely no offense meant, at all, just a thought, a different perspective. They are YOUR followers, and with that (even online followers) comes an increase in responsibility and accountability. And you have a huge following, it looks like, so I wish you the very best to be the light you want to be for Jesus to those who may only see a light of hope on social media. You have a unique opportunity to influence the way people think and perceive God, and when untold numbers of people read your thoughts, and especially embrace them, well, with it comes unfathomable responsibility. I wish you the best and hope I didn’t offend.