“Can you hear me, Mother?”  I expect that you are too young to recognise that as the catch phrase of the comedian Sandy Powell.  When he started on radio in the 1930’s, he would always start his show with his catchphrase.  He was still working in the 1970’s with a terrible ventriloquist act.

Talking on radio he would not be sure that anyone was listening. We now have so many more different ways of sending messages. There are hundreds of TV channels, radio stations and social media channels all trying to be heard. One way they get noticed is by making outlandish claims or telling us that we will be amazed.

For many of us our time is filled with watching the messages, reacting to them by making a comment or showing we like what someone else has said. It can even appear that there are professional offence takers, reacting with outrage at a comment being taken the wrong way.

We are all aware of family or groups of friends where being together will mean all being on their phones in the same place.  It may be just a variation on the traditional image of family with father behind his newspaper and the teenager out somewhere.

Despite all the sound, I am still not sure that we are listening. Maybe the more noise there is, the harder it is to hear. I know that is true for me since I started wearing hearing aids. I can hear myself and birds can be painfully loud, though when there are too many people talking at once it is nearly impossible to make out single voice (particularly when certain relatives visit).

No-one is listening, which is why Public Inquiries are necessary, so that the voiceless can be heard. When there has been a disaster, we may hope to make sufficient changes so it will not happen again, we can not only hope but make certain that we listen carefully.

The gospels describe how Jesus listened and heard the person beyond the words: a man cries out in desperation, a woman is drawing water in the middle of the day, a father longs for his daughter to be well.  Jesus has many words he could say; instead He hears their need and does what is necessary for them.

It is a challenge for us, firstly to find someone to listen to us so we know we have been heard, and secondly, to be able to listen to others, hearing the pain and the hope behind the words.

Stopping to listen may not change the world though it does enable those who we are listening to, to cope with what is happening to them.

Paul Booth