We came across this brilliant article written last week on one of our favorite publications, On Being, about a young man who walked 4,000 miles across the U.S. to listen. He carried a sign that read, "Walking to Listen," and that's precisely what he did - spending time with Americans from all walks of life in all different parts of the country.
Listening is such an important part of our job as journalists, as filmmakers, because we have a duty to carry someone's story. We open people up through interviews, and it's only through real, curious, careful and attentive listening that those people feel comfortable talking to us. We ensure we're creating safe spaces for the interviewee to be able to open up. We listen in earnest, we listen not knowing the answer, we listen to gain perspective, and most importantly we listen with respect.
We want to tell stories that bridge gaps and create a sort of ladder for people to climb the "empathy wall.." It's true that through authentic stories our minds can be changed, our hearts can be opened, we start to listen, we start to connect and the walls come down. To craft these stories we have to become vulnerable and create space for the the people with whom we're working to share. We receive, they give, and we in turn create a beautiful video or visual story to give to the community. It's a process and a journey, and it's not always smooth, but it is always worth the humanizing stories and tools that are created and sent into the world at the end.
We're inspired by this quote from the articled and how it applies to our storytelling: "Listening has a way of complicating any simplistic good-and-evil dichotomy in this way. When people entrusted me with their stories — their brokenness, their frailties and fallibilities — it made it impossible for me to hate them, even if I was deeply disturbed by some of the things they believed or had done. And when I didn’t hate them, and asked them questions without malice, they could remain open, and it is in this openness that transformation becomes possible."
We're so inspired by this individual and we hope to see more stories like this, of people getting out into the world and making connections, bridging gaps, operating with humility, in a cultural space that can sometimes feel reactive or disconnected.
We'll leave with this quote from the article: "Listening with judgment, ready to defend and attack, is not the kind of listening I’m talking about. That’s critical thinking, argumentation, debate — important tools that most schools do a good job of teaching. What I’m talking about is listening, a commitment to exploring and building connection with others based on our shared humanity even when that kind of connection seems impossible."