Listening to understand

By Vivian Collings

Places where people gather in Haliburton daily, for whatever the reason may be, are pure magic to me. 
Castle Antiques is one of those places.
Sitting among items loved long ago with a friend, for a meeting, or alone reminds me time and time again about how special it is to connect with others in the community, only to forget again once I’m swept away with the busyness of life.
I always feel warm and fuzzy when I leave, and I think that’s worth looking into, and there’s a lesson or two to learn from experiences in that little cafe.
Often when I go in, I’m just passing by to grab a burrito, a tea, or a muffin. 
I always see someone I know.
I often see many people I know, actually. But there’s something really profound about sitting and staying a while; not being in a rush to grab my food and go.
Last Thursday, Emily Stonehouse and I met there for a meeting.
We decided to be there a little early to get some extra work done beforehand.
It’s always exciting to go in there, because I never know who I might see at that moment in time.
As soon as I walked in the door, I was met with two smiling faces.
One was a past colleague and one was a family friend.
One was there for another meeting, and one was there for lunch with a friend.
I chatted with each of them, and then went off to find Emily.
I sat down only to be pleasantly surprised by one of my rescuers from the week before (If you missed last week’s editorial, I got locked out of the place I was housesitting … at 6 a.m.).
We had a chat and a good laugh.
As Emily and I sat and talked with each other, a couple more people we both knew stopped to talk to us while walking by.
The longer we sat, the more people we knew came in and sat at the surrounding tables.
Genuine laughter could be heard, smiling faces seen, and honest and open conversations were happening all around us.
And I know this was not special to this particular day. This happens everyday there.
Castle is a small-scale reflection of everything I love about the Haliburton community; a perfect example of pure and raw human connection.
I think we can look at this little hub in our town as a model for the bigger picture.
Everyone in that little cafe that day had different opinions and beliefs. They may come from different cultures.
They grew up in different households. 
They have unique professions, individual personalities.
But, none of those differences stopped the real and authentic connections.
The differences didn’t stop others from speaking and listening equally and respectfully.
“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities,” said Stephen R. Covey.
Of course individuals in Haliburton are going to have differing opinions on many important topics.
And, that’s okay. It’s human to be different. 
But the important thing I learned about that day at Castle Antiques is that it’s so important to stop and take the time to actively listen.
Listening to understand instead of listening to respond is one of the best ways we can connect as a community, despite differing opinions.