Communication by Silence
"Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech."
- Martin Fraquhar Tupper
Years ago-when I was struggling with what to say to a friend who had just been diagnosed with cancer- I was particularly attentive to the sermon at church one Sunday. Pastor Bill was focusing on "communication by silence."
Pastor Bill explained that he'd visited a member of the parish in the hospital. The man was recovering form serious surgery, and it was very difficult for him to talk. After a few initial questions about how the man was feeling, Bill launched into talking about the weather. Then Bill realized that the man probably had little interest in what the weather was like outside. So Bill leaned back in his chair and just sat.
Every few minutes, Pastor Bill looked at the man and smiled. Once in a while, he'd pat the man's hand. He sat with the man for more that an hour. During that time, it occurred to Bill that he and the man were very in tune with each other, even thought they were not speaking. The man seemed relieved that he didn't have to make small talk and appeared comforted by Pastor Bill's presence. Pastor Bill thought about how brave the man was to endure the pain of his condition. He thought about how he too, would like it if someone came and just sat with him if he were every in the hospital and really didn't feel up to talking. Just to have someone there-especially someone not assigned to be there to take care of him physically, but there just to be a comforting presence.
That sermon was life-altering for me. I learned that the close proximity of another human being is often what makes the difference in how we react to pain, fear, and loneliness. Even couples don't have to be talking all the time. My dear friend Jack and I can sit in the same room, reading neither of us speaking. Every so often we sneak quick glances at each other, but it is so peaceful and refreshing to just have that quiet time together.
I WILL TRY TO BE A COMFORTING PRESENCE TO SOMEONE IN NEED TODAY.