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Blubaugh: It’s national news when someone takes a moment to stop and listen, and that’s too bad

We don’t listen to each other anymore.

Not just during what passes for discourse these days, where we impatiently wait for the other person to stop talking, processing exactly nothing being said, so we can contemptuously get on with our own argument for or against the topic du jour.

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But mainly in the way we simply ignore each other.

We’ve tuned out as we live our busy lives, running from place to place and job to job, ear buds in, blinders on, eyes trained on devices as the world goes on around us. We pay little attention to those who live next door or work down the hall, let alone those passing us on the street. Or in a mall. Or sitting near us on the bus.

Or at a restaurant.

That’s why the simplest of gestures made national news this week, when a young waiter at an Eat’n Park restaurant in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania actually joined and conversed with -- mainly just listening to -- a 91-year-old World War II veteran.

Another customer took note of the interaction, as 24-year-old Dylan Tetil got down on one knee and later sat in a booth to listen closely to the man’s stories, got out her phone and shared the touching moments on social media.

People were moved by what they saw, shared like crazy and pretty soon the whole thing went viral, prompting numerous news organizations to jump on the story.

Yes, it was big news because someone actually took a moment to stop and listen, to share a booth, share his time and actually listen to what a perfect stranger had to say.

That’s a sad testament to the current state of how we live our lives. As a nation, as a culture, we’ve become too busy, too selfish and too afraid to do this.

We all have someplace to be, someone to see, a playlist to listen to, a tweet to respond to, a matter we consider urgent to take care of. And anyway, that guy over there dining alone, he probably wants to be left alone, right? And, anyway, he looks a little different, so he’s scary.

Or we could channel Dylan Tetil.

Another Eat’n Park diner paid for the veteran’s meal. That was thoughtful and I’m sure the 91-year-old appreciated it. But I’m also sure he appreciated his waiter taking the time to listen to him even more.

Is it really so difficult to share a moment? It’s always nice when someone at a coffee shop drive-through pays in advance for the order of those in the next car, but wouldn’t it be even nicer to see someone walk inside said coffee shop and strike up a conversation with someone sitting inside, enjoying the java?

When I was growing up, I used to hear the phrase, “Stop, look and listen” quite a lot. It’s good advice outside of its intended context and could well be utilized if you see someone standing by themselves at a bus stop. Or waiting in line at the MVA. Or working on their yard.

Or sitting alone in a restaurant.

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It doesn’t have to be a World War II veteran, although that’d be great given the rate we’re running out of them and how much history they can impart.

Maybe it’s someone else who looks as frazzled as you feel. Maybe it’s a teenager who could use a sounding board. Maybe it’s a haggard parent who seems to need to vent. Maybe it’s a homeless person. Maybe it’s an elderly widow or widower who misses have someone to listen to them.

Maybe the person won’t want to talk to you. Then again, maybe they will.

Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

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