How Are You?
It was the end of class. There were a few minutes left. I asked if anyone had any questions. Mizuho, a new Alexander Alliance teacher, asked me how I listen to a student.
As usual, I sat there silently for about 20 seconds waiting for an honest answer to arise. Then it did.
Let me tell you how my father, at the end of his life, listened to people. He’d sit down with someone and ask them, how are you, and he’d really mean it. My Dad’s ego died a couple of years before he did. His life no longer circled around itself.
His friend, and it seemed everyone was his friend, whether he knew them or not, would talk about themselves, and when they finished, only when they had finished, my Dad would ask them a question. What was that like? And then what happened? How did that make you feel?
His friend would continue, sometimes for a long time. But, ironically, now that my Dad had so little time left, he lived as if he had all the time in the world.
Five days before my Dad died he was in the Intensive Care Unit. He was having a lot of trouble breathing. A nurse comes in and my father asks, how are you? She tells my Dad, “I’m exhausted! Last night I went to night school after a 10-hour shift. My daughter was up most of the night with an earache. This morning, at 6, I grabbed a cup of coffee and a donut, got on the bus, and punched into work at 7 for another 10-hour shift.” How was your daughter in the morning? And then, what are you studying in night school? You’re amazing. I’m sure that will pay off in the long run for you and your daughter. And then, How old is your daughter? What’s her name? As the nurse is about to leave, my Dad thanks her for being so kind to him.
I tell Mizuho that when I’m teaching well, I listen like my Dad listened. Sometimes, I feel that he’s still asking me how I am, still sitting there by me, still listening as if he had all the time in the world.