Vriezen: Student group offers sympathetic ear

Claire Vriezen

Outside the Parks Library is a common gathering place for groups, speakers and demonstrators. In my handful of months at Iowa State, I’ve seen preachers, LGBT groups, the Avoid the Stork organization and a variety of international students addressing current issues of their home countries. 

While walking across campus March 21, I noticed a collection of students holding signs and greeting students as they passed by. Always curious about groups that gather in the Free Speech Zone, I wandered over to investigate.

I found a small band of young people holding signs that read, “I will listen,” with the subtext, “because shrinks are too expensive.” Their mission was simple: Be someone who will lend an ear to those needing to talk.

I didn’t have any particular pent-up emotions or angry rants to unleash at the time, but I wandered over anyway to see what they were about. 

As soon as I got within hearing range, a young man asked me how my day had been going, and a conversation began. I talked with several students and went through the normal routine of, “What year are you?  What’s your major? What do you want to do?”

The young lady I spent the most time talking to simply let me tell her about myself. Despite starting out with the assertion that my life wasn’t too interesting, I managed to talk about it for more than half an hour. 

Granted, it wasn’t a terribly in-depth conversation, but I didn’t expect it to be. I only had 30 minutes to spare, and thus, conversation topics were somewhat limited. Regardless, it was a cathartic experience.

As humans, we like to talk about ourselves, perhaps simply because that is the subject that we know best. So it wasn’t surprising that as I walked away, I realized how much I enjoyed talking to a stranger about my life. 

I didn’t approach the groups of students with the intention of taking them up on their offer to listen. I wanted to know who they were and what they were doing. Yet, I left after having a wonderful chat with a lovely young woman, and the beauty of it was that I didn’t realize how much I had talked about myself.

We were simply talking about my interests, classes, family, whatever came to mind. But I rambled on about my career plans, my brother and sister and college, and the young lady let me talk. 

This group was out there to hear the voices of those that need somebody to listen. For some, they might have been someone to talk to about an emotionally trying experience. For others, they might have served as an outlet for an angst-ridden tirade. For me, and likely for the majority of students that stopped to chat, it was simply a casual conversation with no expectations or strings attached.

I don’t know how many ISU students took up their offer to listen, but theirs is certainly a cause worth noting. Every now and then, we all need a shrink, and they did their best to listen to each person’s story. I hope to see them around campus again and maybe next time I will be able to sit down and talk to them about life, the universe and everything.