Do You Understand or Do You Listen?

By Adrian Ruiz

In a modern age where people are found constantly glued to their phones, ear buds in their ears, self centered, and completely unaware of their surroundings, random acts of kindness are found to be very rare, if not, non-existent. This generation is so poisoned that it is rare to run into a person, have a human interaction with them and for them to actually care for your existence and feelings.


Everybody who attends Tustin High school loves late start Wednesdays. Some choose to spend it at a friends house, at a sit down restaurant, sleeping in, or at school. I choose to spend my late starts at the Starbucks coffee shop. I arrived around 7:30 and ordered my usual caramel macchiato, smelling the coffee beans being roasted in the air as the barista alerted customers when their drinks were ready. As I was ordering I was greeted by Janette, the most jolly, happy, and warm hearted person I’d met in the course of a year. She greeted me and asked how my morning was going, asked about school, and just seemed to genuinely care about me. Janette talks to every customer she attends as if they were old friends and exchanges inside jokes with regulars. She even checks to make sure she gets a customer’s name right on the cup so they won’t have to post the cliche Snapchat of a horrendously misspelled name on a Starbucks cup.


A couple of weeks after I met Janette, I had to take the bus home with only five dollars to my name. My plan was to buy the day bus pass and take the bus home without eating lunch. I waited for the bus for what seemed like forever, to the point where the stomach growls began to kick in. The bus finally arrived and as I stepped in, I found it a bit peculiar that people were not happy on a Friday afternoon. The bus driver, Bill opened the door and called out “Welcome aboard my bus passengers,” as the other passengers and I began to get on. When Bill noticed that none of us were smiling, he let everybody ride the bus for free. I went to the back of the bus, then I realized that I still needed to buy the day pass. When I asked how much it cost, he replied “Don’t you worry I’m a bus driver and I’m a nice guy!” He then proceeded to give me the bus pass for free allowing me enough money to ride the bus and have a decent lunch.


I have spent my entire life talking to people, or at least even trying to start conversations with random strangers. After my encounters with Janette and Bill, I’ve learned that having an interaction is not about replying to what that person has to say, it’s about taking on perspectives and responding with love and eagerness toward what the person has to say.


Seeing things through another person’s perspective sounds simple in theory, but in practice it can be very difficult. We listen but what do we feel? The key of having a successful interaction with something requires both listening and understanding are two different things. Listening is to listen for an answer to which you can reply, while understanding is where you can feel the mental link between you and the person, when you know where the person is coming from and putting yourself in their shoes. Janette and Bill both understood what and where people were coming from. So this is my proposition to you, go out into the world and try to talk to someone: understand them, and impact their day, week, or even life. If every single person you’ve met in your life has been a stranger to you at one point, why not talk to a stranger every now and then?

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