Are we receptive to the love and learning around us?

Are we receptive to the love and learning around us?

This column was originally published as part of my “Looking Homeward” series at

Although my mother had many strengths, using electronics was not one of them.

Dad’s study was located on the lower level of their home. Surrounded by hundreds of books, he lived a rather secluded life during morning hours, especially if Mom was available to handle telephone calls.

The kitchen-den area upstairs, where Mom spent most of her mornings, and the study area downstairs were linked together by an aging, but still useful intercom system. It saved a lot of stair climbing and hollering.

Sometimes Mom would call down on the intercom with a phone message. She usually ended with, “I love you.”

However, before she could hear Dad’s response, “I love you, too,” she needed to flip the switch on her intercom unit. Sometimes when she forgot to do it, she would playfully ask, “Don’t you love me?”

Dad had said it, but she could not hear it because she had not positioned her receiver to pick it up.

Sometimes Dad had to yell through several doors and an entire floor, “Flip your switch and you’ll hear me!”

That’s good advice in more than one environment.

Often times in marriage, friendship, and family, our failure to feel and experience love is traceable to our neglect or inability to flip the switch of our own hearts to receive love from another human being.

“He/she just doesn’t flip my switch anymore,” is an old, but revealing comment once used to describe the end of a relationship. The truth is that no other person can actually “flip your switch.” That’s something each person must do for himself.

Individuals control what they hear and what input they choose to receive.

Beyond our relationships, our task to remain “open to receive” extends to the workplace. In the last year, many experienced job loss or reconfiguration. Some had to take jobs they did not really want, just to have an income. The perfect job is hard to find and if by chance you locate one, the competition is extraordinary.

Regardless of our work circumstance, being “open to receive” allows us the chance to be available to learn what that opportunity provides.

Mother called it, “Blooming where you are planted,” borrowing the title from a then popular book by Joyce Proctor Beaman. For many years, Mom lived a life filled with transitions as she followed my father’s work. Yet, in each environment, she chose to be receptive to the new, to learn and grow with and through them.

“Grow some big ears,” recent college graduates were advised as they headed into their first jobs. Their orientation lecture challenged them to be receptive to all kinds of workplace learning — from the work itself, their peers, their managers, and the environment. You cannot listen when you are talking and you cannot learn if you are not listening.

We alone control how receptive we are to the love and learning around us. If we flip our switch, who knows how our lives may be enriched by what we hear.