By Chase Snyder, a senior communication major from Denver, Colo.
On Tuesday, Nov. 24, senior Chase Snyder’s essay about listening to others and not judging those who are different aired on WVPE-88.1 FM.
I believe in listening deeply, and reserving judgment.
At the beginning of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal American novel, The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway relates some advice that his father gave to him in his youth.
“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” Carraway’s father said, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages you’ve had.”
My dad spends a lot of his time in coffee shops in a shopping district called Cherry Creek in Denver. He takes his laptop along to do his work as a freelance technology writer, and sometimes just ends up chatting with the other people there. After spending four or five hours there per day for several years, he has learned to know some of the other regulars, people he now considers friends, though in some cases, they know only each other’s first name.
Though he’s a talker by nature, and can rant on certain subjects for what seems like forever, the way my dad makes friends at the coffee shop is by listening, and postponing judgment.
One guy, Bob, who the coffee shop regulars refer to as “Black Powder Bob” because of his affinity for guns, visits the coffee shops almost as often as my dad does. Black Powder Bob is basically a bounty hunter. He gets hired by insurance companies and law firms to seek out people who have information relevant to a certain case or insurance claim. A lot of the time, these people don’t want to be found, but it is Bob’s job to find them, and when he does, he’s sometimes packing heat.
This man is nothing like my father, who was raised by a pacifist, Mennonite minister. But my dad and Bob get along great! In fact, I’ve seen them converse non stop for up to an hour, railing about their political views, my father a confirmed liberal, Bob radically conservative. Sometimes it almost seems like they’re trading blows, but each one listens to the other before shooting back their retorts, and despite the seemingly insurmountable differences in their experience (Bob is a Vietnam veteran, my father a conscientious objector), these guys are fast friends.
The reason these two seemingly conflicted personalities get along is not coincidence. They found each other by having one really specific trait in common: the ability to restrain themselves from judging…from rejecting that which is “other,” before taking the time to find out what the other was really all about. My dad and Bob love to talk to each other, and even when they disagree, they know the importance of listening, and each man is enriched by the differences between the two.