‘So many people just want to be heard:’ Group provides listening ears

Tammie Leonard (left) and Cheryl Ring (right) pose outside of City Hall on July 9, 2019 in their Free Listening T-shirts. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

“She just poured her heart out to me.”

– Cheryl Ring

A group of people are spending a couple hours in Memorial Square every week to provide what they feel we all need: someone to listen.

The initiative was spearheaded in Prince Albert by Cheryl Ring, who got the idea from social media.

“What I saw in the video on Facebook was this busy, urban landscape downtown with two rows of seats facing each other, one row of seats filled with listeners wearing T-shirts, matching T-shirts encouraging those walking by to sit down and talk if they wanted to,” she said.

“I thought ‘You know what, we can have this for P.A.’ We can have it for anywhere, somebody just has to do it.”

Ring decided to be that person. She rounded up a group of friends, and whoever else is available every week goes with her.

Tuesday was their first summer session—you could find Ring and Tammie Leonard outside City Hall wearing matching T-shirts reading ‘free listening.’

“I think I would categorize them all as heart wrenching,” said Ring about what people talk to her about.

“I’ll never forget the first person that sat down with me when I did my first session of Free Listening here last summer. I was sitting along the sidewalk and this young lady walks up to me and she looks at the sign and she looks at me and she says ‘I need this’ and she sat down and she just poured her heart out to me, and that to me was a sign that this is something valuable to people.”

The two were also handing out a variety of affirmation cards that Leonard made. Ring fanned them out, allowing people to choose whichever one they were drawn to—she felt the cards were serendipitous to the person.

For Leonard, having someone to talk to strikes personal cords.

“Years ago, I suffered severely from anxiety and panic attacks and I had no voice. I was in the fetal position on my couch and so I overcame that and got through that and so for me to be able to share with other people that story, that gives them strength and hope. I’ve been told that so many times,” she said.

“There’s so many people that just want to be heard, but they haven’t found their voice.”

She said topics people talk about are health-related, about their children leaving home or adults not understanding them, speaking from a child or teenager point of view.

“The more we share our story, the stronger we become,” said Leonard.