Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Silence can be so deafening

Sometime silence can be deafening. I can´t explain to you the sound grass makes as you carelessly fall back on it and I don´t think I will ever be able to repeat for you the many other sounds I took in that day. There were birds chirping, children laughing, wind rustling leaves, English, Spanish, a whole slew of things, and yet, it was the silence of her smile that captivated me. I had just pretended to have been tackled by this seven year old ball of energy and laying in the grass looking up at the most curious and confident of eyes looking back at me, I wondered how she did it, to smile in spite of the cards life had handed her.

There is the temptation to romanticize this story and there is the fear that my words won´t do justice to the testimony it has the potential to be. I saw life in a child many of us would rush to take pity on. A child with deformed hands and missing fingers. A child who has lived everyday of her life before that day and will live everyday of her life after that day never having the opportunity to overlook the subtle cast aside sounds of nature like the movement of grass or animals. She can not read, she can not speak with her mouth or her hands, and living in the campo, I can´t honestly tell you if she ever will be fully educated to communicate with sign language. And yet, she has the most brilliant set of eyes that speak the volumes she has been shortchanged in life.

For the last few days of the sumer camp we worked in I watched a little seven year old girl without fear or abandon aproach anyone, be it a four year old child, camp counselor, or stranger in the museum and begin to comunicate. It usually started with a smile and then pointing and gesturing and finally the discomfort of the other would wash away with her signature smile and laugh.

I heard the voice of God in the silence of a deaf girls smile and I wonder if you can too. Just as you start to wonder what´s it all about, why are we where we are, I truly would like to believe that God is speaking, giving us the answer, but often it is in the most subtle or overlooked places or people. It´s liberation theology taken out of the ivory tower and placed in front of our eyes, if only we choose not to avert our eyes. We might not admit it outloud but we never expect God´s voice to be a seven year old deaf girl.

A lot of people ask what it is I do down here and to tell you the truth, the answers they´d like, the answers I´d sometimes like are hard to come by. How I´d love a two word answer like English Teacher or Social Worker or even Traveling Hippie to make it easy for us all. But being a Holy Cross Associate means my life is more simple than complicated and for that, it is hard to explain to people living in a complex world.

As I started to get angry at the lot this little girl was cast she tackled me in the grass and laughed, and for the first time in a few weeks, I didn´t just laugh (because God knows I laugh a lot) I laughed like a child laughs, a small distinction I almost forgot existed up until that moment.

I don´t want to downplay her struggles because they have been many and will continue to be unfair, but for just a moment our vulnerability and failure meant nothing as they shrunk in the light of laughter and love. Again you ask me what is it I do down there in Chile. Teach.. yeah… social ministry… sure. Volunteer… duh. But I´d like to think that something like being present to the moments God whispers in your ear by saying nothing at all sounds a hell of a lot better than stamping a job title on what it is I do.

When you stop and think about it, we all have job titles that fill in the blanks on the documents and emails and casual conversations, but if we do it right, regardless of the title or the place, our jobs bring so much more than a mundane title. I have lived my life these last few years under the principle of the Magis, a thirst for the more in all that we do and I found that Magis is achievable in all that we do, if only we are willing to patiently seek it out and when we find it, live in it. Truly, unabashedly, live in it.




Jodi said...

Think of how proud your grandchildren will be when they read your memoirs and picture in their minds "grandpa's" adventures.
Keep writing....
Hope all is well


goofymusician1 said...

thank you patrick. thank you.

Anonymous said...

Most people struggle their entire life learning that language (the language God speaks in)it's because they talk more than they listen. The language isn't difficult to learn you just have to talk less and listen more!

So very glad to see that you have mastered it! Keep on keeping on and God Bless you. My prayers are with you. Mike Seef (second cousin)

Ellen said...


Thanks for reading my musings... I checked out some of yours and I too will be returning to see what other adventures unfold in Chile. I particularly enjoyed the bit about God whispering in your ear, that will stay with me for a while. Oh, and I gave Marcos a bit hug for you.

Peace, Ellen

John said...

You always make me look at things differently. Keep on listening Patrick! Miss you buddy.