It seems strange to me that the simplest things are those that we often forget. How easy is it, really, to just listen? As it turns out, it’s not so simple. Every day that I have spent at Broad Ripple has been loud, hectic, wildly engaging (assuredly these are all good things) and the students I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with have, without exception, been bright, intelligent, and creative beyond all expectations. Each one of these students has something to say that is absolutely worth listening to.
Of course, that’s not nearly as simple as it sounds. It’s so easy to turn off, to disengage and simply nod along. It’s not so easy to actual build on what’s going on in our students’ heads. Listening and speaking have taken on many forms at Butler Writers; some kids will barely utter a word to you, while others can talk at you for hours without taking a breath. But listening takes much more than just having a conversation. These kids are passionate but also painfully aware that their voices will often be ignored, their ideas shut down, their individuality scrubbed away. Vulnerability—bearing your mind and your soul to another—is difficult but, with some work and patience, the kids at Broad Ripple have given us the pleasure of experiencing and building upon what gives them joy or fear or strength. We work every day to encourage these kids to embrace who they are and to express whatever may come from that experience.
Where these kids are learning to express themselves and embrace their own artistic quirks, we the mentors are learning how to listen. I have been given so much by these kids. I’ve read stories that blew me away; I’ve had conversations that have brought tears to my eyes; I’ve rapped, cartwheeled, hopped, wrote, read, and laughed my way through this semester with these kids. I’ve gained so much being with them and seeing them grow. All it takes is a little bit of time and an open ear.
Chris Ebersole is a senior English major.