Be a good listener. In the book "No Time For Tact," Larry Winget writes, "The best friend you will ever have is one who will just listen."

Emphasis on the word "just."

Winget writes that is why his bulldog, Ralph, is his best friend. He doesn't understand a word that's said, but he loves his owner enough to listen. Be like Ralph, he urges.

After reading Winget's comment, I couldn't get the importance of listening out of my mind. It seemed every time I turned around, the word "listen" popped up. For example, I received a pretty box of chocolates from my secret prayer pal. When I picked up the first yummy heart-shaped chocolate, I found this message: "Listen with your heart."

I think I'm going to order the book "Grandma Knows Best, But No One Listens," by Mary McBride. Sounds like a fun book to read, and the word "listen" caught my eye.

There are lots of husband and wife jokes about not listening -- in one ear and out the other. Also, the older folks who can't remember which story they told or to whom they told it -- we listen as they repeat and repeat.

But listening is a serious subject. It is important to be conscious of how we listen to someone speaking directly to us or the speaker at the podium. We need to show respect, listen as we would want them to listen to us.

Really listen. Don't let your mind wander to what you need to do at home. Look at the one speaking so they know you are paying attention. Listen, concentrate and remember what they have told you.

I have trouble remembering, so I take notes. It seems if it comes out of the end of my pen onto paper, it is easier to recall. In school, every meeting I go to, each speech I hear, thoughts that come to mind, and even ideas I dream up at night I make a note. I need to date my notes because people have seen me take notes and ask me to look up something for them. Problem is, I can't always find notes when I need them.

It takes two to communicate; one to talk and one to listen. There are two sides to a conversation. Be sure not to monopolize the time. Let your partner in this interaction have an opportunity to answer, share their opinion or agree with you. But try not to interrupt -- wait your turn.

Have you ever fallen asleep as you listened to a speech or maybe a sermon? There have been times I suddenly wake up and realize I had dozed off in church. I sure hope I never snore at a time like that. Jim used to poke me if that happened. Of course, I did the same to him.

Here is something to think about. When we meet someone and say "How are you today?" are we ready to listen to their answer if it is more than "just fine?"

Or do we even give them a chance before we walk on?

Listening is not only conversation and communication. We listen to the radio, to music and sounds of nature -- wind, thunder, birds, the cicada and crickets. We sing a soothing lullaby to put a child to sleep. We are filled with pride when a grandchild sings in a school concert. We sing joyous songs of praise in church. We should be so thankful we can listen and enjoy the God given sense of hearing sound.

I listen closely when I'm introduced to a stranger, hoping to remember their name. I find if I repeat their name soon after it helps. I address them by name: "Lois, it's nice to meet you."

I fear we are losing the contact and connection that is valuable to friendship. We are failing to appreciate the importance of talking and listening to each other, to our family and friends.

I've seen many people texting at restaurants, meetings and concerts, not enjoying the company of family and friends or showing respect to the speaker or performers.

Learn to be good listener. Try to be like Winget's dog, Ralph. Learn to appreciate the blessing of contact and connection.

And don't let me catch you texting when you could be enjoying a pleasant conservation with a friend.

Opal Flinn is a member of The Hays Daily News Generations advisory group.