As readers here may recall, perplexed by the question people often asked -- "Can listening really help?" -- I wrote an essay called "The Astonishing Power of Listening"[i] and did a pilot study of the effectiveness of the listening project at Harvard Kennedy School. The results revealed that veterans from every war since World War II found it helpful and healing, and the nonveteran listeners found it transformative for them in very positive ways.[ii]
When I spoke in the Rhode Island Statehouse in May, as the guest of Governor Lincoln Chafee in a veterans’ event organized by Dr. Paul Block of Psychological Centers and Stephen Hourahan of Family Service of Rhode Island, the Governor issued a proclamation of Days of Listening to Veterans, in which he urged citizens to listen with respect and without judgment to a veteran’s story. The Lieutenant Governor, Elizabeth Roberts, read the proclamation that day, and in discussion afterward, she said that she would propose a similar resolution for the Annual Meeting of the National Lieutenant Governors Association. She did that, and I am delighted to report that it was adopted. The text is at http://www.nlga.us/wp-content/uploads/AM-2013-Resolution-in-Support-of-Listening-to-Veterans-Day-FINAL1.pdf I hope that readers will look at it and, noting that it urges each state to declare a Day of Listening to Veterans, will urge the representatives of their respective state legislatures and/or their governors and lieutenant governors to introduce and pass such a resolution.
Last February, thanks to the kindness of Phil Donahue in allowing us to screen his important film, “Body of War,” as a fundraiser for the otherwise unfunded WJJHP, we raised just enough money to engage videographer Shawn Curley to create a video in which I respond to Frequently Asked Questions about the project. Actor John Ross Clark kindly donated his time to participate as well. The 19-minute video is now at http://whenjohnnyandjanecomemarching.weebly.com/the-welcome-johnny-and-jane-home-project.html just below a description of the Project. For those of you who prefer reading text to watching videos, much of what is in that video is in Chapter 6 of my book, When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home: How All of Us Can Help Veterans.
Recently, Terre Thomas – who since 1980 has been a member of the National Board of Directors and Governors of the amazing St. Jude’s Hospital founded by her father, Danny Thomas – generously hosted in her home an event attended by a truly remarkable group of her friends and colleagues, each of whom works tirelessly in various ways to make the world a better, more compassionate place. When I spoke to them about the WJJHP, they asked for a list of specific ways that they could help. One of those attending was Stanley Silverberg, who kindly helped me compile that list, which is at the end of this essay. If anyone reading this would like to help out in any of those ways, I hope you will contact me.
Last week, I was one of the two speakers – Kay Lindahl, author of The Sacred Art of Listening[iii] was the other – in a webinar organized by the wonderful Sande Hart, who does sterling work with Compassionate California and The Compassion Games.[iv] With listeners/participants from across the country and other nations, we spoke of the simplicity and power of listening.
The people at Wellness Works in Glendale, CA -- who have a history of caring about veterans and their families and helping them in nonpathologizing, alternative, low-risk ways – had a successful meeting of people who want to do the listening sessions and are setting up their first sessions.
“Welcome Johnny and Jane Home Project" -- Can You Help In Any of These Ways?
1. Read existing WJJH Project description on existing website to see if it needs editing for brochure.
2. Create logo and maybe graphics or find photos for brochure.
3. Do layout for brochure.
4. Print brochure.
5. Put brochure on WJJH website.
6. Use social media to get the word out about the Project, giving firstname.lastname@example.org address for veterans and prospective listeners who want to participate.
7. Do outreach to veterans’ organizations and municipalities and civic, social, political, volunteer, education and higher education, and faith-based groups, as well as members of Congress and state and local legislatures, chaplains, alternative service providers, and media people to spread the word and specifically to
(A) gather participants
(B) locate local spaces for the listening sessions
(C) find local coordinators to bring veteran and listener together in a space.
8. Mail or email brochure to those in #7.
9. Do ongoing follow-up of #7.
10. Create and keep a data-base of information from #7.
11. Create media kit that includes the brochure and contact information from people who have participated as veterans or listeners.
12. Try to get media stories about the Project (ongoing).
13. Arrange for/host events where Paula can speak about the Project either in person or via Skype.
14. Create and keep up a list of everywhere the Project is being implemented on whatever scale.
15. Create section on website where both veterans and listeners can post comments about the listening sessions they did and can communicate with each other (anonymously if they choose).
16. Find someone to monitor #11.
17. Create section on website where veterans and listeners may (anonymously if they wish) report the fact that they have done a session … or how many they have done, so we can have a minimum notion of how many have been done altogether.
18. On the section in #13, have a place where a listener can request a baseball cap, bumper sticker, or mug that has the words “I listened to a veteran’s story” on it, and we will send it to them.
19. Arrange for the items in #13 to be produced and donated or paid for, as well as shipped when they are ordered.
20. Brainstorm about what the caps, bumper stickers, and mugs for the veterans who participated could say on them.
Get Veterans’ input regarding what they would like the wording to be.
21. Seek volunteers who will help with any of the above and help Paula respond to various requests for information and support.
22. Find donated recording studio space and editor’s time to make audiobook version of When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home (which has won three national nonfiction awards and includes a chapter about the listening sessions).
23. Raise funds for the above, where possible.
[i] http://whenjohnnyandjanecomemarching.weebly.com/1/previous/4.html and also at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/science-isnt-golden/201104/the-astonishing-power-listening