Make The Silence Deafening
The roar is deafening.
Approximately 200 middle-school students return to the cafeteria after performing their speeches; adrenaline still coursing through their bodies as they enjoy pizza, candy and very loud conversations with their friends.
A lull comes over the cafeteria as the principal makes an announcement for students to clean their areas. They are heading to the auditorium for awards.
Silence again fills the space, and I feel myself relax.
There is peace in the silence.
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta understood the importance of silence. ”God is found in silence. See how nature: trees, flowers, grass - grow in silence. See the stars, the moon, sun, how they move in silence.... We need to be silent to be able to touch souls.”
I can't help but sit and reflect on how these vivacious pre-teens compare with the residents I recently encountered at Jacob’s Village in Evansville. Not at all reticent, the community embraced the visiting confirmation class from Holy Rosary Parish during a fall retreat on campus. The energy was animated and spirited, but with a very noticeable twist. Many of the residents would be considered “nonverbal.”
A few parents and I provided lunch for the residents and the hungry teens. We were encouraged to walk the grounds and explore some newly added features, including a prayer garden on the west end of the campus. The day was a scorcher, almost 90 degrees, and we were told that it was at least 10 degrees cooler in the garden.
We walked the grounds, passing the many residential areas that house the population of Jacob's Village. Many residents waved and spoke as we passed by, eager to share a few friendly words. We found the path to the prayer garden, an area marked by a transition from concrete to gravel, and moved down the wooded path.
The 10-degree temperature difference was no exaggeration. The canopy of trees lining the path provided a glorious shade that blocked out the sun while creating a sanctuary for low-growing ferns and hostas. At the end of the path was a rugged wooden cross.
But we were not alone on our visit. Resting at the end of the path was a resident of Jacob's Village. He had maneuvered his wheelchair into the serene area where he sat communing with nature. I was taken aback to see him, as he sat alone in silence. He could not turn in his chair to see us approach, nor could he speak due to the nature of his condition. Technically he was “nonverbal.”
That did not mean he could not communicate with us.
As we moved into his line of sight, his smile grew. He moved his arm and my hand reached out to hold his. We offered a greeting, then stood smiling at one another.
“...They are Jesus in disguise...speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don’t only give your care, but give your heart as well.” With great capacity for love and empathy, Saint Mother Teresa would have understood the silence.
I saw Jesus in that man, not a man defined by his disability.
I pray that all of us, loud and silent, can work towards seeing Jesus in one another and in all men, no matter our outward attributes. Perhaps if we start today, tomorrow we can live in a better world.
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” – Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta
The mission of Jacob’s Village is to develop a safe, walkable neighborhood community where people with disabilities and older adults can find meaningful relationships, housing that is affordable and accessible, and activities that encourage active minds and bodies. For more information, please visit jacobsvillage.org.