On bees, going to college, listening – readers help spread the word

A bee lands on mustard in a Central Valley orchard.
A bee lands on mustard in a Central Valley orchard. jlee@modbee.com

College, native pollinators, romance and listening – topics of previous columns – have spurred comments from readers, many of whom read my column online. It’s time to give these readers the opportunity to be heard.

In response to a column on earning college degrees expeditiously, a representative from Complete College America wrote:


We saw your column and were hoping we at Complete College America could promote this via social media and then post on our web platform. We would love to feature and spotlight your article with our network.

Emily at CCA

Emily, it would be my honor for you to use my Los Banos Enterprise column for your national initiative. I would be heartened if I can in some way encourage more students to complete college in a timely way.

Responding to a column on the Native Pollinators program I discovered last fall on my trip to St. Louis, a professor wrote:


I read your article on bees and liked it quite a bit. My parents live in Merced, so I make it up about three or four times a year. I always visit the local wildlife refuges and use an app called iNaturalist (iNaturalist.org) to take pictures of wildlife, including bees. It’s a great way to monitor local pollinator species. Anyone can use the app for free and observations really help scientists understand which pollinators are in a local environment.

Hector Valtierra, Professor of Biology, San Diego Community Colleges

Professor Valtierra, thank you for the tip on the iNaturalist app. I trust some readers might now use it themselves.

I heard from two regular readers who were featured in a column I wrote last spring:

Dear John,

An editor of the magazine “Mysterious Ways” read your column about the courtship Terry and I had in Oklahoma, with Terry finding me almost miraculously during a severe Tulsa thunderstorm. The editor contacted and interviewed us, and our story was published in that magazine. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us and write about our story.

Hilda (and Terry) Brown

Hilda and Terry, I’m happy the story of your romance and courtship got national prominence. We in Los Banos are lucky to have both of you in our community – an award-winning cowboy music singer/songwriter and an internationally renowned trick roper, who are also two of the kindest people I know.

My column on listening drew the most comments, from people I saw in town who read the printed edition and from folks who read it digitally, including this fellow who has taken listening to a new dimension:

Hi, John,

We are putting your proposition (the importance of attentive listening) to the test, by voice instead of visual, through an app. Vorail is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that started as a non-visual dating app and evolved into a global voice community, full of questions, answers and conversations (all in voice, nothing to see). The global low-vision and blind community believes enough in this approach to pay for it by way of a small monthly subscription fee. We are trying to include more people in our voice community, but we sighted people may not appreciate it unless we close our eyes during a conversation.

Vorail is the most natural way to have a conversation. People who cannot find words face to face with others at parties use this app and then talk so much that we had to add a buzzer at the five-minute mark during recording. Vorail is a way not to judge a book by its cover, but to be judged for who we are and not how we look.

Tom Rosenthal

Tom, thank you for starting a nonprofit app that allows people to talk and then hear recorded responses from people all over the world. I’m glad people who use your app feel “listened to.”

Another digital reader responded by talking about an additional dimension to listening.


I just read your piece in the Los Banos Enterprise – how wonderful! The world-wide listening movement of which you speak is exactly what our organization, Listen First Project (www.ListenFirstProject.org), is helping to foster. We feature over 170 partners in our #ListenFirst Coalition, a set of organizations that now powers the National Conversation Project. The next National Week of Conversation is April 5-13. ... I included your article in a recent tweet that was retweeted by Bret Baier who has 1.2 million followers!

Graham Bodie

Graham, thank you for work in the nonprofit Listen First Project. I like the idea, posted on your website, of creating “a movement to mend the frayed fabric of America by bridging divides, one conversation at a time.”

John Spevak is a resident of Los Banos; he wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. Email john.spevak@gmail.com.