At a holiday gift exchange with one of my monthly book clubs, I was fortunate to unwrap “How to Know a Person – The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen” by #1 New York Times bestselling author David Brooks.

Brooks observes, “There is one skill that lies at the heart of any healthy person, family, school, community organization, or society: the ability to see someone else deeply and make them feel seen – to accurately know another person, to let them feel valued, heard and understood.”

We all can recall deep conversations with people who listened to what we were saying and looked into our eyes with complete understanding.  Being understood and listened to, feeling considered, and the joy of connection never get old.

Brooks shares: “At a time when our country is being less human, we must find a way to see others, and make them feel validated, heard and respected. Our society is in trouble. We should put down our phones and connect with people. Talk to strangers on trains… foster meaningful connections in every aspect of our lives.”

“Being open-hearted is a prerequisite for being a full, kind and wise human being, but it’s not enough. People need social skills.” Brooks says he learned these skills over time. He stresses the importance of building relationships, community, friendships and social connections throughout your life.

Things that we see at Jewish Senior Life in the successful older adults who thrive on our campuses are real life examples of building friendships and creating a community.

Among the skills Brooks talks about and values are how to disagree without poisoning the relationship; how to reveal vulnerability when appropriate; how to be a good listener and how to end a conversation gracefully. Knowing how to ask for and offer forgiveness is a reminder of our human frailty. We can learn how best to sit with someone who is suffering and know how to see things from another’s point of view.

Brooks says: “These are the most important skills a human being can possess and yet we don’t teach these things in school. As a result, a lot of us are lonely and lack deep friendships. It’s not because we don’t want these things. Above almost any other need, human beings long to have another person look into their face with loving respect and acceptance.” It’s that we lack practical knowledge about how to give each other the kind of rich attention we desire.”  In the end, it’s all about respecting and listening to others.

May the recent holiday bring blessings to you for peace, good health and understanding. May we learn to listen more and judge less. And may the final drop of wax from our Menorahs remain to remind us of this time in our history.

Shabbat Shalom.

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