the freedom to be heard

I met Emlyn at the silver row of mail boxes in our apartment complex courtyard.  When I first discovered him, he was dropping pieces of mail on the ground like a card-trick gone wrong while he wrestled with his stubborn old wheel chair.  One arm hung heavily at his side…he grabbed it in the long fingers of his other hand, flung it up in the air and plopped it back  down across his boney lap where it threatened to slide off again as he scooted forward to catch his wayward flock.  I asked if I he would mind if I picked up the pieces of mail he dropped…he just smiled and cemented the friendship we would enjoy there on F Street.

Emlyn’s speech was slow…and sounded like a slowed-down recording of someone’s voice…Curled up and slurred around the edges with a  lava lamp quality to the vowels.  Conversations required a lot of strength for him…but he had so much to say…he wrestled and fought, even broke a sweat just to get it all out.   The big Ent from the Lord of the Rings movie just came to mind…speech was like that for Emlyn, too…slow and so much work.

Long after our meeting at the mailboxes, we were talking one day and Emlyn informed me….that an expert had informed him that he was “functionally mute.”  I think he winked when he said “expert”.  But, yep, this expert lady had “enlightened” him with this terrible little piece of trivia.   Now, the dictionary defines “mute” to be “a person who cannot or will not talk”.  And since I had enjoyed so many conversations about all kinds of wonderful things with Emlyn…there was only one conclusion that could be drawn.

I told Emlyn that that was absurd!  “If she couldn’t understand you, Emlyn, that proves it, she’s just ‘functionally deaf!”

Sitting here reflecting on this conversation with Emlyn…made me think about how easy it is to fly through life…not really listening…not really hearing what people have bottled up inside.  If I just slowed waaaay down…maybe they’d let some of it out.  But it really is hard work…to slow yourself down, to stop talking long enough to give someone else the freedom to be heard.

Emlyn really set the bar high…Do I really wrestle and fight to listen the way he fought to speak…to listen with that kind of intensity because I know that I have so much to hear…

“Everyone should be quick to listen…slow to speak….”  [James 1:19]

Maybe James knew someone like Emlyn.

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Want to be a good listener?  Don’t miss this post–“More on Listening…Much, Much More”

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