Learning to listen

roving listener picture (1)
Sophomore Leah Davis, center, with other Roving Listeners last summer in East Macon. (Photo courtesy of LEAH DAVIS)

What is listening? By definition, it means to give one’s attention to a sound.

Leah Davis
Leah Davis

I am particularly good at listening only because I’m very soft-spoken. Anyone who knows me knows I’m probably better at listening than I am at talking. Things that are commonly said to me include “I can’t hear you,” and “speak a little louder.”

That’s why I felt so comfortable joining a program called the Macon Roving Listeners. It was a unique program I found out about through Centenary United Methodist Church in the summer of 2012.

All I knew before actually participating was that I would be interviewing people who lived in the Beall’s Hill and College Hill area. I wouldn’t have to say much at all which sounded perfect to me. Plus, getting paid (which was amazing for a 12-year-old) and community service hours wouldn’t hurt.

So it was settled. My summer would consist of walking around town with small groups of other students knocking on doors and hoping someone would let us in because it was so hot outside. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

The actual program was different than what I expected. I was thinking all we had to do was ask people the questions, write the answers and move on.

I was a little surprised when I found out there was an entire week of training. DeAmon Harges, the original founder of the Roving Listeners, from Indianapolis, Indiana, came to Macon to instruct us on how to have conversations with people.

I don’t remember much but the numerous icebreaker name games and having to get over speaking to a number of people. However, the actual interviews are something stuck in my mind forever.

I’ll never forget interviewing a young lady who lived in a beautiful downtown historic home with her 4-year-old son. She had lived there with her mother as a child, and as we spoke to her, she recounted various paranormal experiences she and her mother had when she was younger. She explained to us the experiences she’s even had with her own child in the same house. Listening to those stories made us uneasy.

Living in the same area, I had passed that home a million times. And without having participated in this program, I would have never known any stories like this one, let alone be able to share them with others.

Learning these otherwise, undiscovered stories is one of the major benefits of this program. I’ve learned so much about the people of Macon and what they have to offer. I have made friends I’ll have forever and developed skills I’ll use for the rest of my life.

In more recent years, the Roving Listeners program has changed. The spots for the job have also become fewer and harder to get and the overall objective is different. The main idea is not so much to get the community together, but to inform the residents of renovations and new programs taking place in their neighborhoods.

Still, the Macon Roving Listeners has definitely benefited me in more ways than one.

Leah Davis is a sophomore and a sports writer for The Gazebo.