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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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December 17, 2008

I got to listen

Two Sundays ago I volunteered at the Chicago Pre-Parliament Event sponsored by the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions.

I got to assist videographer Ben Mahoney by asking presenters and participants about their experience of the event. For a print journalist used to writing notes in sloppy shorthand, it was quite the experience. I got to ask questions and listen — truly listen — to the answers.

Not that we print journalists don't listen. We do. Carefully. But we're usually so focused on making sure we accurately capture the words our interviewee says that we sometimes miss the grace and beauty of what is said.

Rather than making sure I wrote down every word verbatim, I got to listen to the spirit of the answer. It was incredibly freeing. And it gave me some time to reflect on what we, as journalists — especially religion journalists — get to do.

I hadn't met many of the people I interviewed. I'd read short biographies about them, or had Googled them. I went in feeling a little proud of my research, a little smug that I was well-prepared.

But when I spoke to Warren Clements, or Mikael Smith, or Hafsa Arain, or Starr Bresette, I brought a tiny bit of knowledge. I asked them a question or two related to that tiny bit of knowledge. And then I sat back and reveled in getting to know them better — their lives, their passions, how what they believe shapes their experience in the world.

It was a gift to me. I hope it will be a gift to those who get to see the video.

Vocationally, it's also a reminder that doing what we do, and doing it well, is a gift to us, and a gift to others. And with the spirit of thanksgiving, we can offer those gifts to God.

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