We are the Sleepless Knights.
We meet every Monday morning at 9:30 am. That time keeps the young, fast-talking bucks from taking over. That’s when most of them are out working. We are retired. We need some time by ourselves, time not pretending we’re busy, like the young bucks.
Officially, our name indicates that we are servants of a God who neither sleeps nor slumbers. In reality, perhaps it has more to do with the number of times we get up each night. You know what I mean.
We open our meeting with a simple prayer. We thank God for each person present, and we pray that we may be good listeners – for that’s why we come together. To listen attentively to whatever anyone wants to talk about.
Our group is small enough that in an hour and a half we manage to go around the room twice to give everyone two opportunities to say what is on their heart or mind. What we did since the last time we met, trips, health concerns, issues with children and grandchildren, victories, celebrations, failures, ongoing challenges.
To the untrained ear these may seem like mundane subjects, even boring. Nothing like the lofty spiritual conversations you may hear in other small group meetings and Bible studies. But we are not about telling inspiring stories. We are about intentionally listening well.
‘That’s how we love’
You’d be surprised how rarely good listening happens in ordinary life. We seem to be surrounded by people who are ready to interrupt, change the subject, take over the conversation, have a better story or offer unsolicited advice.
So we decided to work harder at becoming better listeners. As a gift to one another, and perhaps, after much practice, a gift to others in our sphere of influence.
Our rules do help: no interrupting, cross-talk or cell-phones.
We just listen. Listen to sometimes rambling accounts of conflicts between our children, or about when a car broke down, or about some TV program that was particularly interesting. And as we listen we are also reminded of things in our own life, things that perhaps we had buried deeply because we had no place to go with them, nobody to talk about them with.
And so we find that our second round often touches on things that are closer to our hearts. Things that usually come up only during the sleepless hours of the night, when there is nobody around, and the best we can hope for is to fall asleep and forget that the issue ever came up.
During our second round we may hear about a daughter sinking into the black hole of mental illness, loved ones with dementia on the immediate horizon, the sense of powerlessness when the next generation starts making all the decisions in the family, or the incredible joys of holding a newborn grandchild for the first time.
We all see ourselves in the stories we hear. That’s how we love one another. We listen well.
Former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says that the number one killer of men in America is not heart disease, cancer or obesity; it’s loneliness. As life progresses, many men feel increasingly isolated. The generally competitive nature of our work environments, along with the perceived risks associated with admitting needs and weaknesses, leaves many men carrying their burdens alone. Retirement often cuts off even the superficial work-related connections that kept our isolation at bay.
When we retired, we did not suddenly become bastions of empathy and unconditional positive regard. We still like to hear ourselves talk. We still have petty prejudices. We still have little patience for endless verbal diarrhea. That’s why we only meet for an hour and a half per week.
But during that period we are committed to one thing, and one thing only: excellence in listening.
And as we listen, we discover real life, real joys, real tragedy, and, for that brief moment, we walk together, and we feel like somebody cares enough to pay attention. And we experience a greater sense of belonging, in what may otherwise just feel like a large, impersonal church.
We are the Sleepless Knights.
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