HOW TO THINK ABOUT LISTENING

A Meditation on Proverbs 18:13

Chaplain Kay Wilson-Bolton

January 1, 2007

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”

  1. It is arrogant to answer before you hear. Humility does not presume that it knows precisely what a person is asking until the questioner has finished asking the question. How many times have I jumped to a wrong conclusion by starting to formulate my answer before I heard the whole question! Often it is the last word in the question that turns the whole thing around and makes you realize that they are not asking what you thought they were.

    2. It is rude to answer a half-asked question. “Rude” is a useful word for Christians. It means “ill-mannered, discourteous.” The New Testament word for it is aschēmonei. It is used in 1 Corinthians 13:5 where modern versions translate it, “Love is not rude,” but the old King James Version has “Love doth not behave itself unseemly.” This means that love not only follows absolute moral standards, but also takes cultural mores and habits and customs into account. What is polite? What is courteous? What are good manners? What is proper? What is good taste? What is suitable? Love is not indifferent to these. It uses them to express its humble desire for people’s good. One such politeness is listening well to a question before you answer.

    3. Not answering a question before you hear it all honors and respects the person asking the question. It treats the person as though their words really matter. It is belittling to another to presume to be able to finish their question before they do.

    4. Careful listening to a question often reveals that the question has several layers and is really more than one question. Several questions are all mixed into one. When you see this, you can break the question down into parts and answer them one at a time. You will not see such subtleties if you are hasty with your answer and not careful in your listening.

    5. A question sometimes reveals assumptions that you do not share. If you try to answer the question on the basis of your assumptions without understanding the questioner’s assumptions, you will probably speak right past him. If you listen carefully and let the person finish, you may discern what he is assuming that you do not. Then you can probe these assumptions before you answer. Often, when dealing at this level, the question answers itself. It was really about these deeper differences.

    6. Questions usually have attitudes as well as content. The attitude sometimes tells you as much as the content about what is really being asked. In fact, the attitude may tell you that the words being used in this question are not all what the issue is. When that is discerned, we should not make light of the words, but seriously ask questions to see if the attitude and the words are really asking the same question. If not, which is the one the questioner really wants answered?

    7. Questions have context that you need to know. So many thoughts and circumstances and feelings may be feeding into this question that we don’t know about or understand. Careful listening may help you pick up those things. It may be that there is just a small clue that some crucial circumstance is behind the question. If you catch the clue, because you are listening carefully, you may be able to draw that out and be able to answer the question so much more helpfully.

    8. Questions are made up of words. Words have meanings that are formed by a person’s experience and education. These words may not carry the same meaning for both you and the questioner. If you want to answer what they are really asking, you must listen very carefully. When the possibility exists that their question is rooted in a different understanding of a word, we will be wise to talk about the meaning of our words before we talk about the answer to the question. I find that talking about the definitions of words in questions usually produces the answer to the questions.

    9. Proverbs 8:13 says it is our “folly” to answer before we hear. That is, it will make us a fool. One reason for this is that almost all premature answers are based on thinking we know all we need to know. But that is “foolish.” Our attitude should be: What can I learn from this question? The fool thinks he knows all he needs to know.

    10. And finally Proverbs 8:13 says that it is our “shame” to answer before we hear. What if you are asked publicly, “My wife and I have had serious problems and we were wondering . . .” and you cut the questioner off by giving your answer about the value of counseling and what counselors might be helpful. But then they say, “Well, actually, what I was going to say was, “My wife and I have had serious problems and we were wondering, now that our counseling is over and things are better than ever, how you would suggest that we celebrate?” Then you will be shamed for not listening.

 

Prepare Now for End of Life Decisions

SPFD 004 3.09 head shot - FormalChaplain on Duty

Kay Wilson-Bolton

Most of us do our best to plan for the future. We buy insurance, pay our bills, take our medication, see the doctor and eat right.

There is one area that needs particular attention and that is Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Most of us don’t think we are going to die soon, so this is one task we often avoid or postpone. Everyone should have a Durable Power of Attorney that meets the California codes.

This document is the legal right given by the law to someone else to make health care decisions for terminating care or ending life supports given to a critically and terminally ill person. This agreement is written and signed in the presence of a lawyer, notary or witnesses.

Most of us have an idea about what we would like to have happen at the end of our lives, but unless your wishes are made known and provided in a properly prepared legal document, the law will supersede all your good intentions.

Everyone who has a particular desire as to end of life actions should consult with an attorney before signing documents. The Durable Power of Attorney will instruct all first responders in how to treat you at the end of your life. Copies should be placed with the hospital, your doctors, attorney and family members.

First responders view every 911 call as a plea for help in a life threatening situation. Their goal is to rescue and save lives. Unless the caller can provide documentation to first responders as to any alternate response, all efforts will be made to save life, regardless of the verbal requests of family members.

The Durable Power of Attorney must be completely filled out and signed by the patient. If there are blanks in the form or unsigned pages or paragraphs, the document has no affect and is not binding on anyone.

If you are clear on your intentions, please make the efforts to get them in writing and on a generally recognized form. First responders are there to save lives, not to complicate a patient’s wishes in an end of life situation.

 

Be Careful Little Eyes What You see

The Assault on Our Eyes
September 17, 2016
Chaplain Kay Wilson-Bolton

Most people know when an image is seen, it is burned into the brain and no one can “un-see” it. Nothing can scar a person more than seeing images of cruelty and the results of tragic accidents and behavior, including pornography. The continuous assaults manifest themselves in post-traumatic stress disorder. The Civil War it was known as “soldier’s heart”. In WW1 it was “shell shock,” in WW2 it was “battle fatigue” and “combat stress.”

In 1952, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual settled on “Gross Stress Reaction” but only for a time as psychiatrists believed a greater description was needed. We know it today as “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

The remembrance and rehearsal of explicit and upsetting images can have profound and lasting effects. People who have witnessed such images are forever changed. Outside of war zones, there is a daily assault on our senses from news reports and messages from the internet.

For good reasons, first responders are able to manage their emotions after a while because the continued assaults on the brain from the sights and smells of tragedy. Some will seek counseling to help manage the attacks and others may resort to less healthy mechanisms. Without some acceptance of the effects of tragedy, they could not do their jobs.

The internet has produced wonderful uses and opportunities for education. A program like Facebook has forever altered the communication techniques and the sharing of information — for good and for bad.

I have so enjoyed many of the videos and posts from people I know and trust to guard my senses and put “no worthless thing before my eyes.”

There have been numerous unexpected wounds to my mind and my heart from posts by people wanting me to know about some cruel practice as though I could change it. One particular post was very disturbing. I have to fight to suppress it and change my mental focus, particularly when I close my eyes.

Part of the reason for confidentiality among first responders is so that the sharing of tragic events, details and images can create vicarious trauma to the listener, particularly for spouses, children and significant others.

Children should never see these images. For one, they are too young to process them and they may be subject to an aroused curiosity that would take them to place from which there is no return.

There is a reason King David spoke of this in Psalm 101:3, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;”

I encourage everyone to be thoughtful about what you see, share, and say. It will promote good sleep and healthier private thoughts.

Give Grief A Chance

August 4, 2015

Observing others in grief can be as difficult as being in your own. The emotions for those standing by can range from fear, confusion, helplessness, anger, pity, frustration and deep sorrow.

Grieving is hard work and its different for everyone. Ask the mother who never cried over the loss of four adult children and a granddaughter. Ask the long-married wife who cannot stop crying after the death of her husband. Ask the parents who just lost a newborn to SIDS death.

It’s difficult to know how to respond to people suffering grief. Those who are brave enough to speak often attempt to rationalize the death with personalized theological truths. Those who feel shy about reaching out to grieving people will avoid them altogether which can be as hurtful as saying the wrong thing.

If you plan to stay with the grieving person, don’t judge any behavior. If you want to be a friend in comfort, create an emotionally safe environment where anything goes and you are okay.

Most people know to never say, “I know how you feel.” No one can know how anyone feels. If it’s true, you can say, “I lost a daughter too. I know the pain.” However, give yourself permission to say nothing. Don’t compete with their grief. Your silence will be comfort enough and you will know when it is time to speak. You can never really add value to sitting through a death by saying something. Your presence has its own value.

Job’s Old Testament friends are known for misinterpreting Job’s suffering. They are seldom recognized for the good moments when they responded to Job’s anguish with wisdom. When Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar first heard of the tragedy, they immediately came to comfort Job:

“Thus they lifted up their eyes from afar, but they did not recognize him, so they raised their voice, and they wept, and each man tore his outer garment and threw dust on their heads toward the sky. Then they sat with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, but no one spoke a word to him because they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2:12–13).

Job had just lost ten children and their families–his grandchildren. His herds, representing massive wealth, were carried away by thieves and his hired hands were killed. But, not once did he curse God for his calamity. He then became so covered with boils that he was damaged beyond recognition.

We often try to diminish grief with clichés that fill the silence, like “God is in control”, “You don’t see it now, but you will.” “Time will heal.” While it’s true, it is no comfort.

Job’s friends realized that weak attempts to speak trivial truths would only interrupt and add to the grieving that was necessary and appropriate. So, they shared his grief, stayed in his presence, and didn’t speak a word–for seven days.

When Job’s friends decided it was time to speak, Job wished they would be silent: “O that you would keep completely silent and that it would become wisdom for you” (Job 13:5).

Our response to the grief of others should be prayerful. Attempts to explain events that we don’t ultimately understand ourselves can bring even more pain. Consider a fatality caused by a drunk driver, a house fire taking the lives of old people or children, or a SIDS death.

What is true is that tears and crying are necessary in the grief and recovery process. Many times in the day-room at the ER, I have witnessed doctors deliver the pronouncement of death to family members. The process is the always the same. The best of comforts is to be silent and let them cry. Soon, the reality of the event becomes evident and people begin to breathe again.

It is then that shared grief and empathy help survivors grip the new reality followed in time by the new normal. You don’t get over it; you learn to live with it. Life does go on and there are always arrangements and adjustments to be made and experienced. Just stand by. It’s called a ministry of presence.

Kay Wilson-Bolton is a Fire Chaplain and Biblical Counselor

August 17, 2014

Chaplain on DutySPFD 004 3.09 head shot - Formal

Most of us do our best to plan for the future. We buy insurance, pay our bills, take our medication, see the doctor and eat right.

There is one area that needs particular attention and that is Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. Most of us don’t think we are going to die soon, so this is one task we often avoid or postpone. Everyone should have a Durable Power of Attorney that meets the California codes.

This document is the legal right given by the law to someone else to make health care decisions for terminating care or ending life supports given to a critically and terminally ill person. This agreement is written and signed in the presence of a lawyer, notary or witnesses.

Most of us have an idea about what we would like to have happen at the end of our lives, but unless your wishes are made known and provided in a properly prepared legal document, the law will supersede all your good intentions.

Everyone who has a particular desire as to end of life actions should consult with an attorney before signing documents. The Durable Power of Attorney will instruct all first responders in how to treat you at the end of your life. Copies should be placed with the hospital, your doctors, attorney and family members.

First responders view every 911 call as a plea for help in a life threatening situation. Their goal is to rescue and save lives. Unless the caller can provide documentation to first responders as to any alternate response, all efforts will be made to save life, regardless of the verbal requests of family members.

The Durable Power of Attorney must be completely filled out and signed by the patient. If there are blanks in the form or unsigned pages or paragraphs, the document has no affect and is not binding on anyone.

If you are clear on your intentions, please make the efforts to get them in writing and on a generally recognized form. First responders are there to save lives, not to complicate a patient’s wishes in an end of life situation.

 

 

Prayer at the Firefighter Memorial Ventura County

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Creator of all that is good, thank you for bending low to hear the prayers of wounded but proud people.

Thank you for your own passion and tenderness towards us. We saw it in those we honor today who lived their lives protecting us.

Thank you for our memories. Let them encourage us by day, and comfort us by night. Let this memorial be a worthy and lasting reminder of all that is good, true, noble and right.

Receive our pain and replace it with peace. Take our fears and turn them to faith.

Keep us mindful that all life is fragile. Those who live in harm’s way carry extra burdens as do those who love them.

Grieving is hard work. Help us to be kind to ourselves and each other as we walk through our own valleys of shadows and death.

Take the “what ifs” and the “if only’s” and grant grace instead of grief, while we promise to remember that all give some, and some gave all.

And now, Creator and Author of Peace, who is slow to anger and abounding in love and grace, make Your face shine upon us and give us peace.

Amen

Prayer at Fire Academy Graduation Camarillo

April 18, 2009

Creator and God of Heaven,

We are gathered together this morning to put the bow around months of preparation and years of dreams.

We ask you to protect those you have called into the fire service. Shower each one with amazing courage, infinite wisdom. Sprinkle them with that special grace that always lies on the shoulders of a firefighter.

Thank you for the commitment of those skilled instructors who make our graduates capable and honorable firefighters.

Let “line of duty” be an imprint for service and may these words never define more than actively doing the work they love.

In their new assignment, let each become one more great neighbor behind the big garage doors who serves the community with intelligence and imagination. Give them courage, keep them safe, keep them wise.

Surround them with supportive loved ones, capable leaders, dependable, and amiable colleagues. Help their loved ones to embrace the firefighter’s schedule; and more especially acknowledge the passion and fascination for life at the station.

Send them a Chaplain who will serve them well. Thank you, God for hearing us, and we pray with confidence knowing you have a plan for our lives marked by this signature day.

I pray in your strong and ever-present name.

Prayer for Public Safety Personnel

May 7, 2009 – National Day of Prayer in Santa Paula

Creator and God,

You are the provider of all the things in our lives. In ancient days, walls were built around cities for protection. In these days you provide public safety personnel to keep us safe.

Some would refer to our community as a “premier place to live.” With all else wonderful, Santa Paula can not be so unless we are safe. We thank those who risk their lives to protect us.

For our police department, God, we thank you and ask your protection over them. We ask them to make split second decisions on our behalf. They stand in harm’s way instead of us. They deal with problems we create and the messes we make. We ask them to work long hours, wear bullet proof vests in hot weather, and expect them to be polite and cheerful in every circumstance.

Thank you for stable and skilled leadership in our police department. For Chief Steve MacKinnon, Lt. Carlo Juarez and Lt. Troyce Reynolds, Sergeant Ismael Cordero, Sergeant Robert Cooper, Sergeant Jimmy Fogata, Sergeant Joey De los Reyes, Sergeant Ryan Smith and Acting Sergeant Cody Madison.

We pray for our 16 senior officers and officers, Dispatcher Supervisor Chris Cook and six dispatchers. Keep our canines safe as they stand in for their handlers and often take the first blow.

We lift our Fire Department before you. We thank you they are trained as paramedics. God, protect them from the shock of being jarred from sound sleep, seeing things no eyes should see, experiencing terrible dangers. We ask them to wear unbelievable protective gear in the hottest of weather and under extreme heat and danger. When everyone else runs from fire, they run towards it.

Bless Fire Chief Rick Araiza, Chief Kevin Fildes, Captain Jerry Byrum, Captain Dustin Lazenby, Captain Steve Lazenby, Captain Gil Segovia, Captain Milo Bustillos, Captain Dan Campos. We pray for our engineers and our 40 firefighters.

As we pray for our State and City and the challenges of managing local government fund, please keep the necessary funds at these levels so that no staffing levels or operations are compromised.

God, you know the special challenges that face families of public safety personnel. Put hedges of safety around them. They sting from loss of companionship and from the love that gets directed towards life at the stations.

We pray for the paramedics in our ambulance crews who travel with police and fire, often ahead of them, sometimes being called in to rescue and administer advanced life saving skills as they deal with life and death in the long ride to the emergency room.

We thank you for the resurrection of Santa Paula Hospital, for the emergency room doctors and nurses who face tragedies and unimaginable circumstances.

God please protect our public safety men and women. Protect their families, their eye, their hands. Make them amiable colleagues.

Let them know you are the great protector, the great provider, the great safe place.

We love you God for bending low to hear our prayers.

Prayer for Public Safety Personnel

May 7, 2009

Creator and God,

You are the provider of all the things in our lives. In ancient days, walls were built around cities for protection. In these days you provide public safety personnel to keep us safe.

Some would refer to our community as a “premier place to live.” With all else wonderful, Santa Paula can not be so unless we are safe. We thank those who risk their lives to protect us.

For our police department, God, we thank you and ask your protection over them. We ask them to make split second decisions on our behalf. They stand in harm’s way instead of us. They deal with problems we create and the messes we make. We ask them to work long hours, wear bullet proof vests in hot weather, and expect them to be polite and cheerful in every circumstance.

Thank you for stable and skilled leadership in our police department. For Chief Steve MacKinnon, Lt. Carlo Juarez and Lt. Troyce Reynolds, Sergeant Ismael Cordero, Sergeant Robert Cooper, Sergeant Jimmy Fogata, Sergeant Joey De los Reyes, Sergeant Ryan Smith and Acting Sergeant Cody Madison.

We pray for our 16 senior officers and officers, Dispatcher Supervisor Chris Cook and six dispatchers. Keep our canines safe as they stand in for their handlers and often take the first blow.

We lift our Fire Department before you. We thank you they are trained as paramedics. God, protect them from the shock of being jarred from sound sleep, seeing things no eyes should see, experiencing terrible dangers. We ask them to wear unbelievable protective gear in the hottest of weather and under extreme heat and danger. When everyone else runs from fire, they run towards it.

Bless Fire Chief Rick Araiza, Chief Kevin Fildes, Captain Jerry Byrum, Captain Dustin Lazenby, Captain Steve Lazenby, Captain Gil Segovia, Captain Milo Bustillos, Captain Dan Campos. We pray for our engineers and our 40 firefighters.

As we pray for our State and City and the challenges of managing local government fund, please keep the necessary funds at these levels so that no staffing levels or operations are compromised.

God, you know the special challenges that face families of public safety personnel. Put hedges of safety around them. They sting from loss of companionship and from the love that gets directed towards life at the stations.

We pray for the paramedics in our ambulance crews who travel with police and fire, often ahead of them, sometimes being called in to rescue and administer advanced life saving skills as they deal with life and death in the long ride to the emergency room.

We thank you for the resurrection of Santa Paula Hospital, for the emergency room doctors and nurses who face tragedies and unimaginable circumstances.

God please protect our public safety men and women. Protect their families, their eye, their hands. Make them amiable colleagues.

Let them know you are the great protector, the great provider, the great safe place.

We love you God for bending low to hear our prayers.