Aspen sat in Row 11, Seat 14 at the Dodgers vs. Rockies game on Sunday. She captured our attention when she passed the row she was sitting in and her grandfather (we think it was her grandfather) started calling her name. She was on the stairs about at row 3 when she heard him and made her way back, a little sheepishly, to her seat which was directly in front of mine.
I’m guessing Aspen is about ten or eleven years old. Her multi-colored stocking hat was sort of sassy, distinctive and gave me the impression that Aspen may be a bit of a free spirit. She had a little black bag with some sort of colorful images on it, too, that she kept her things in.
I’m always a bit intrigued by young children at ball games. Sometimes they just don’t have the patience to hang in there and watch a game for two or three hours. Baseball is particularly challenging, at times, because the action can be so far away. At other sports events, basketball and hockey, you can feel more intimately connected with the game because of proximity to the players and action. The extra-curricular activities, little shirt giveaways and contests, help keep spectators entertained at time-outs and slower moments of the games. At Coors Field, they do a nice job with the big screen to keep us entertained. And people watching at baseball games is fun.
As we settled in to the game this rainy Sunday, people huddling together to pretend it really wasn’t so damp and chilly in early June, Aspen and her grandfather also settled into the afternoon. Aspen sat at the front of her seat, sort of on the edge of her seat, as the game picked up. She never leaned back in the seat as she watched the game and did a little people watching of her own.
Every now and then as the game went on, Aspen and her grandfather would get into some conversations that appeared a little, for lack of a better word, “intense.” And this is where I had my lesson from Aspen. Again, she did not sit all the way back in her seat. She only sat about half way back. When her grandfather talked, she turned her torso one-quarter of a turn so she was facing him a little more directly. I could not see her grandfather’s face or hear the content of the conversation.
As her grandfather spoke, Aspen’s eyes narrowed a little and stayed focused on his eyes. Sometimes they scanned his face. But her eyes stayed attentive. She’d nod. Her nod reminded me of my own daughter’s action when she was about that age. A nod that said “I get it … keep telling me more. I’m with you.” She would add a word or two in the conversation. Then she would be attentive again, listening.
I was reminded, again, once more, of the power of listening. Attentive listening. Watching Aspen reminded me that active listening is done with more than ears. It is a whole body act. She listened with her ears, for sure, under that multicolored hat. She listened with her body turned toward her grandfather. She listened with her eyes, glued to his, scanning his face, attentive and engaged.
In many ways, I was glad I could not hear the content. Aspen’s lesson was about listening behavior, the physical act of listening. You can learn a lot from an eleven year old who is curious, inquisitive, engaged.
Oh, one last important lesson from Aspen on this cold, rainy day. Start the day with Dippin’ Dots. An inning later, make the move to cotton candy. (She had a great strategy: don’t take the plastic wrapper off; instead, eat the cotton candy one finger-pinch at a time by reaching up under the packaging from the bottom. It keeps the cotton candy undisturbed, and, if you get tired of eating it, you can then save it for later. Aspen didn’t need to save any for later.) And then to finish off the game, warm yourself back up with a hot chocolate.
After all, you only live once and you are eleven.