Sounds of silence

This was one of my favorite songs when I was in high school. I still like it–still think it has a message we need to hear.

But the title has struck me in a couple of different ways the last few days (and maybe also part of the message).

I was at the doctor’s office yesterday, while my husband had a colonoscopy. While I was sitting in the waiting room for about an hour, I listened–several times–to the same messages (health-related) on the TV that was turned on. Granted, it wasn’t loud, except for the commercials…but I was sick and tired of hearing the messages after just an hour. I can’t imagine having to hear them all day. They were good messages, and I suppose they helped keep people’s minds occupied…but I had some work to do and reading I wanted to do as well–and it was hard to ignore that constant commentary going on.

So often in those situations we talk without speaking–at least anything of consequence. We hear, but we don’t listen. We make noise to drown out the sounds of silence.

Why are we so afraid of silence sometimes? Because it makes us listen to ourselves? to God? Because it makes us see our lack of connectedness?

There are other times, though, when I think it’s appropriate to fear silence–and that’s the other thing I’ve been thinking about. As I’ve watched the news reports from Japan, one comment that’s been repeated fairly often by the reporters is that in some of the places of the worst devastation, what strikes them is the silence.  No birds or other animal life…no human life….just the sounds of silence that cannot be broken because of the depths of the devastation.

And yet in some ways, the silence is being broken. Survivors are huddling together, sharing their stories, sharing what little they have, helping each other in whatever ways they can. And I think they understand what Simon and Garfunkel meant:

Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you

We can find it very easy to cocoon ourselves in times of distress–to silence the voices that would bring healing. But we are part of a worldwide community, whether we like it or not. And we have to reach out both in words and in deeds to “disturb the sound of silence” that would keep us separated from each other.

Prayer…and Works

Yesterday was the 7th anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. I found myself wondering a bit in the midst of the reminders and the quiet times…have things really changed that much?…and…what am I doing about helping things change positively?

It’s a conundrum at times. I wasn’t able to go to New York to help in the rescue and recovery efforts–or the rebuilding of lives. I’m not able to go to Haiti to help people dig out from the seemingly endless cycle of storms that have hit there. I’m not a certified rescue worker who can help out with disaster efforts.

So what can I do? Well, one thing I can do is to pray. Sometimes that sounds so trite…and yet, I’m reminded of a story I heard of a group of seminary students who visited a convent of perpetual adoration. (I’m not sure those are exactly the proper terms to use–but it was a convent where prayer is offered 24/7.) In the course of the dialogue between the students and the nuns, one of the students asked, “What do you do?” One of the nuns replied, “We pray.” A little puzzled, the student responded, “I know…but what work do you do?” The nun smilingly replied, “Do you not believe that prayer is work?”

If I am a person of faith, what is my response to that question? And so what do I do in times of disaster and need?

I go when I can…I support financially to the best of my ability…and then I uphold in prayer those who are doing the physical work I am unable to.

Prayer and works aren’t totally separate–at least not in my worldview. They’re both a necessary adjunct to each other.