AZLE, Texas - A North Texas man has had his own health struggles including cancer and a debilitating back injury. But he isn't complaining. Instead, he's listening.
His sign asks people if they, "Need to talk?" It turns out, a lot of them do.
Will Norman said he began setting up his listening tent at the intersection of Northwest Parkway and Speer Street in Azle in mid-May.
"I just went through some hard stuff, a traumatic experience and felt like there was no one there. And I thought maybe other people need to talk, and they did. And so, I just listen and they just keep coming and keep coming," he said.
Norman, who is on leave from work because of his back surgery, now sits under the canopy four or five days a week to listen to people in the community. He said the free chats are confidential with no judgement. He doesn’t even share an opinion unless he is asked for one.
He’s surprised by how many people he’s met who just needed someone to talk to.
"It’s everything from people who have had death in their family, cancer, just family issues. They have no one to talk to or it’s something they can’t talk to their friends or family about and they just need a stranger to talk to. And then there’s a few that just want to talk about they want to complain about the weather or politics or traffic. Anything they need, I’m there. They just need to vent," he said.
When asked if it’s hard not to share his own opinion, Normal said yes.
"Everybody who knows me knows that I’m a talker. It’s been a learning experience for me because I have to make myself listen. So yeah, it’s an awesome experience. It’s hard sometimes to deal with some of the stories but it’s great that people have some place to go," he said.
While many people may benefit from talking to a professional therapist, that can be expensive. Norman said a lot of the people he listens to need to talk because of financial issues.
"[Therapists] will tell you a lot of times, ‘Well, we have a sliding scale.’ But in most problems you have, finances is such a huge thing. So, any amount of money you’re putting out is just hurting you even more," he said.
People from all over the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex have stopped to talk to him and sometimes there are people wait in line.
"Evidently it’s something that’s needed," he said.
Norman said he hopes he can sit under his listening tent for as long as people continue showing up.
He also hopes his efforts inspire others to just listen more and help others more.
His mantra – "No one can help everyone but everyone can help someone."