I’m a champion eavesdropper. I’m not a spy, mind you, and I don’t hide around corners listening to whole conversations other people are having. I just happen to be lucky when it comes to overhearing the sometimes ethereal and profound and dumbfounding things strangers say when I pass by them, within earshot.
Recently, when I was leaving the grocery store, I passed a woman who was holding her two maybe three year old child and just as I whisked by them I heard her say, “Because you’re so handsome, that’s why.” What a lovely mama, I thought. Pumping up her son with confidence and grace.
Then there was the couple I brushed shoulders with on a hiking trail who seemed to be arguing about something really intense. “If you were more confident it wouldn’t matter,” he said to her as they trudged by me. I wanted to turn around and take the woman with me. I wanted to tell the man he was an ass. But that’s the thing about just getting a little snippet—you never know the whole story and you never know the outcome of the conversation.
I only know that humans intrigue me. The way they interact when others aren’t fully involved. The way they encourage each other—like two women I passed on Main Street where one woman was saying to the other “You have the best eyebrows I’ve ever seen.” I wish I could have plopped into their lives and offered up some encouragement if that what was needed.
The whole concept of hearing things in passing reminds me of my favorite Pema Chodron quote. “It’s not that we set out to change the world,” she says. “It’s just that we become curious about how other people are feeling.”
Each incomplete conversation I overhear has had a slight impact on me—some larger than others. Hearing the little tidbits and sprinkles of lives that others are living. They can be so grand and profound, in my experience and they can be heartbreaking and superficial if you take the time to listen.
Pardon My Intrusion,
Betsy Big Ears