Clinical Skill

A friend called me and I answered the phone, “What did I do?” She laughed and then asked me what my goals were for the year.

Having thought little about the calendar year, it took a minute. I live on a few calendars. My school calendar, my oldest son’s school’s calendar, my work calendar, and in an implicit way, the liturgical calendar.

Each project in my world has a calendar. In some ways, I’m modifying goals regularly based upon what happens in each mini-world.

So we joked a few minutes while I got myself together to answer her question. She and a few folks had listened to each other’s goals the day prior and she wanted to hear mine. She wanted to do me the favor of hearing my goals. Emmanuel Lartey, a pastoral theologian, wrote in In Living Color, that “Listening is a core skill in any form of caring.”

We traded goals and that was it. The thing is, when trading goals and expectations and hopes, I was–and she was–giving each other permission to participate. Trading was a step. Her asking me in a few months some version of “how are you doing with this one?” is another step.

It was a gift to me, having her ask the question, probe gently, and listen. I actually said to her, “This is what I do. I show up and ask people a question in order to hear them. How are you taking my role?”

I learned in that conversation that more people do what I do. More people are capable of coming alongside another person in order to listen, to care. I also learned that friends can take different roles playfully and that we can all do more or less than what we’ve done in the past.

That’s actually one of the learnings behind my goals, learning that I’m not, merely, what I have been and what I have done. My friends…always strengthening my and their clinical skill.