Tuesday, October 15, 2002
There was something particularly memorable about Miss America 1995. Like all Miss Americas, Heather Whitestone was beautiful, poised, and talented. But unlike any Miss America before or since, Heather Whitestone was deaf. Not long ago, she was in the news again - and what she said was as impressive to me as anything she did as Miss America. Now Heather Whitestone McCallum, she had a cochlear implant surgically placed in her right hear. She decided to have the operation when her two-year-old son, John, fell in her back yard. Here's what she told reporters: "I couldn't hear him crying. I need to be the first one to hear him."
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Hearing Your Child."
If you're a mom or dad, you need to hear what the first deaf Miss America said about hearing - that you need to do whatever you have to do to be able to hear your children. Some of us parents whose physical hearing is just fine have often been deaf to what our children may be thinking, or feeling or needing.
That's why James 1:19, our word for today from the Word of God, is an important verse for all of us to whom God has entrusted a child. It may be one of the most disobeyed verses in all the Bible. Here's what it says. "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." Actually, listening, hearing someone out - getting the whole story - is one of the most effective antidotes there is to losing our temper; to dumping our anger on someone we love.
And if anyone needs to be "quick to listen" and "slow to speak," it's a mom or dad. Unfortunately, many parents - and husbands and wives, for that matter - just move the words around a little bit in that verse. "Be slow to listen and quick to speak." And when we live like that, there is no way we can understand the other person, to know what the need is behind their deed, to discern whether love or discipline is needed, and to answer the real question.
That's why the Bible says, "He who answers before listening - that is his folly and his shame." (Proverbs 18:13) Heather Whitestone has it right - a parent needs to be the first one to hear their child. And it could be that your son or daughter feels that you've been almost deaf to what they're saying and feeling. For a former Miss America, it required surgery to hear her child better. For most of us, it requires some surgery on our attitude or our approach ... or even our priorities.
When your child is talking, give them your focused attention - not the preoccupation that says "I'm either coming from or going to something more important than you." Rearrange your schedule, if necessary, to be there for the times they're most likely to open their heart. Pass the test of listening to all the little stuff - if you flunk the test of the little stuff, they'll never tell you the big stuff. If there's conflict between you, apologize for your part so the wall can come down. Have unstructured times with your child - take them with you as much as possible.
Those unguarded moments are prime time to hear their heart. And when your child is talking to you, don't do the things that make a child stop talking - like expressing shock, giving quick answers, or expressing condemnation, or jumping to conclusions, or later using what they said as a weapon against them.
We all can learn from a Miss America who knew she could no longer be deaf to her child. Do whatever you have to do to hear - to really hear - the child God entrusted to you.