How my Brazilian friends taught me to listen and learn
It is hard to keep the rhythms of listening and learning alive. I am a pastor and one of the occupational hazards of my vocation is to always be in situations where I teach and speak. On my recent trip to Brazil I thought about these two life-giving rhythms; listening and learning. Brazil’s primary language is Portuegese and I don’t speak the language, apart from picking up some of the words as derived from English, German or Latin. It is not a lot of words. So when I am in Brazil I experience plenty of opportunity to listen.
Every now and then I think I know whatthe conversation is about and then I would start a sentence with “you are talking about ….” I would guess, and mostly wrong. In these moments of guessing I am invited to switch to a more humble position of asking questions without appearing to know what is going on. Questions like “what are you talking about?” places me in a position where I can listen and learn instead of speak and pretend. Two of my Brazilian experiences elucidated this further. The first was my friend Eduardo’s Tuesday rhythm where he learns the skill of tennis. His teacher (professor) is a young man who started at the tennis club as a ball boy and by listening and learning he grew into a tennis coach. The young man lives in a favela . On Tuesday’s Eduardo listens and learns from this professor.
Another example is Eduardo’s church service where he divides his chuch community into small groups to speak to each other during the church service. This is a practice we also engaged with during our Claypot days. This is a deliberate move that exercises the community’s listening and learning muscles. Because churches are so used to the pastor doing the teaching and speaking we have to be retrained to speak and teach and listen and learn from each other. This is hard. It is hard to keep the rhythms of listening and learning alive; but it is essential for our growth in Jesus.
- a favela is like a squatter camp or shanty town. ↩