Counting our blessings and learning to listen

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 14, 2006

As a former teacher, I have often said, &#8220to teach is to learn.” As a journalist for the last six years, I can also say writing is a perpetual learning experience.

Having spoken to several of the Hurricane Katrina evacuees who relocated to our area, I realize more than ever the need to count our blessings every day. There is a great deal we take for granted – at least I do.

Whether it's turning on the shower knobs and knowing there will be plenty of hot water for a shampoo; having a comfortable bed with cozy flannel sheets to slip underneath at night, or opening my fridge or pantry and always finding something to eat (though not necessarily the filet mignon and New York style cheesecake I might be craving) – I may not live the life of the rich and famous, but I have things far better than many people with whom I share this planet.

I also asked each of the evacuees I interviewed what they brought with them when they fled their homes. There was clothing, of course, and other basics, but inevitably, everyone included family photographs – as irreplaceable as the flesh-and-blood folks they depicted.

What really matters the most to most of us are, after all, the people we love.

Evacuees told me it was family that helped keep them going, both blood relations and those &#8220adopted” as family; church members, co-workers, hurricane relief volunteers, the stranger who simply reached out to aid a fellow human being in need.

As wonderful as modern technology is

– here I am, on a weekend at home, able to write this column and send it in to the office, where we will later put Lifestyles together – it will never replace the human element.

All the cell phones and BlackBerrys, all the text messaging and e-mail, can't hold a candle to a warm hug, friendly handshake, or a smile that reaches right to the eyes.

It's what I've learned – people do need people. I can't write stories if people aren't willing to sit down and talk with me and share their stories. I can have all the talent in the world, but if I am not able to listen and empathize with others, there is a vital component missing.

We all need to be able to hear what others are telling us, whether we are teachers or salespeople, writers or physicians: it may be the key to the diagnosis, the successful sale, the well-written story, the &#8220a-ha” moment with a student.

Even though I have sixteen years of education behind me, not counting the time I put in for graduate-level courses, I believe I am still in school. Call it the school of life. I hope I never stop learning. I hope the same for you.

Angie Long is Lifestyles reporter for The Greenville Advocate. She can be reached at 382-3111 ext. 132 or via email at