Listening, learning and the smell of washing…..

Hi Fair people of York

I have been instructed by the powers that be (Jane – who is co-coordinating the Commission’s activities) that I should script another missive to you good and fair people – with particular reference to this week’s launch. 

Was musing about the event yesterday when I happened to glance outside to see a lovingly washed white shirt belonging to himself (for the uninitiated himself is other half) drifting untethered past the window. In a somewhat undignified rush I hastened to rescue said shirt – cats observing with feline disdain at the lack of composure of human female creature yelling. Rescued shirt – but shoeless so equally inevitably stood in something gungy – hopped indoors and washed foot. I fear it was a deceased mouse or part/s thereof. Is it the liver or the kidney that cats never eat – I can never remember . . .

 Anyway back to my musing of Wednesday night. It was (I think) Stephen Covey who first talked of empathetic listening.  Real listening . . .  the importance, the power, and in some situations the necessity of not merely going through the mechanical responses that might be required for ordinary listening, but opening oneself so we can start to feel what the speaker is feeling. The notion of being in someone else’s shoes and seeing the world through their eyes, is something we rarely do – isn’t it? Not least because it would ask too much of us to do it on a daily basis. But if the Commission is to acquire the ability to see Fairness simultaneously from multiple points of view then we must and the Commissioners all know that. Perhaps it is only through empathetic listening that we really learn . . . 

And so I contemplate my learning . . .

The articulate young people present, the passionate older ones, the learned, the interesting, the ones that teach us something with their advocacy and their knowledge. I learnt about mental health, volunteering, housing, transport, the voluntary sector – I could go on and on . . . . But I think what I learnt the most was that we do understand Fairness. And that in York it is tangible that people are interested in what Fairness means, how we can pursue it and where we should insist upon it. 

I said at the end of the launch meeting it was a perfect start – and it was – thoughtful, self- effacing, creative, intelligent and yes it was fun too. 

And so back to washing . . .  I love the smell of washing on the line – even if in flippin Yorkshire it’s so windy it blows away – why is this relevant? It reminds me of my Grandma who was a washerwoman – we had much much washing. In beautiful juxtaposition my Grandpa was a miner – so we had much black coal. Tangential thoughts . . .  possibly . . . but who amongst us does not think of the struggles of their parents and grandparents? Do any of us not look behind and know that their story is our story? Many of them living through war years, hardship, poverty, poor education and little opportunity – and we want better not just for our children but for all children. Smelling the washing takes me back – Fairness takes me forward.

 Speak soon

 Ruth

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