Vinny Cyr talks Monday morning with Klara Tammany during Free Listening Day in Lewiston. Tammany will move to different dowtown locations from week to week to listen to whatever people would like to talk about. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Don’t ask Klara Tammany a question. She won’t answer.

“My gift today is just listening,” she said while sitting in front of Webb’s Market on Pine Street for the 8th annual Free Listening Day, a movement that began on the streets of Los Angeles, California, in 2012. Over the years, it has grown to include people from all walks of life across six continents, more than 70 countries and 43 states, according to the website

Not long after Tammany pulled out her “free listening” sign, a woman walked up and started to talk about the struggles she and her boyfriend are having.

“I need help,” said the woman, who has limited mobility. “I feel like crying so bad.”

Tammany tried to only listen, but broke her one rule and told the woman about The Center for Wisdom’s Women, which offers support.

“I did a lot of listening at the women’s center over the years so I have had lots of opportunity to just listen,” Tammany said of the place she once directed.


She retired as executive director March 13, 2020. Her intention was to start free listening pop-ups then, but the COVID-19 lockdown started two days later and free listening was on hold — until Monday.

“I’m giving it a try,” she said. “I think it will take a while, but I think it would be really cool if a dozen or so people were set around town to just listen. I think the world needs it. People don’t feel like they are heard.”

“It’s nice to have Klara here,” market owner Susan Longchamps Bergeron said. “They appreciate someone listening to them. Not judging them,” she said of customers.

People could hear Vinny Cyr approaching on his bicycle with a trailer that carries his large music speaker. All listening was focused on very loud music until Cyr hit the pause button.

“There is noise and then there is music,” said Cyr. “It’s all about the beat.”

Cyr saw the “free listening” sign and walked over to Tammany.


“It’s very effective listening to people,” Cyr said. “That’s what changed my life — when I started listening to people. You think you know everything and then you realize that you don’t once you start to listen.”

Tammany briefly thought Cyr could possibly be one of the dozen or so listeners spread across the city in the near future.

“I don’t think I can just listen,” Cyr said. “I have too much to say.”

That’s the discipline part,” Tammany said. “Just listen.”

“I do it all the time,” Bergeron said. Her market is in one of Maine’s poorest areas and the stories Bergeron hears are pretty powerful.

“Most days I leave emotionally drained,” she said. “I love it, but I do have a business to run.”

Bergeron set two chairs in front of the market for Free Listening Day. Tammany sat on one with her dog, Sophie, on her lap while holding her sign.

“Someone asked if I was giving away a free dog,” Tammany said. “No. I’m just here to listen.”

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