The Silent Truth

It’s starting to become one of my regular “gigs” on the Tuesday evening before Christmas at a local retirement community — at least for the last 3 out of 4 years. It’s a safe night for me to make a commitment while avoiding conflicts with other speaking engagements being booked on the road throughout the year. It is also good to be “home for the holidays” and as they say – it is a wonderful time of the year. And they are, indeed, a wonderful community.

This particular group meets on the third Tuesday evening of each month with an annual theme for the whole calendar year. This past year their theme was The Joy in the Journey. Each month an invited speaker is asked to share some aspect of that theme. Since I’m the caboose session of their annual theme, a lot has been said on the topic before I arrive in the midst of the buzz of the Holiday Season.

When Betty, the Program Director, reached-out in the early fall to ask for the title of my presentation, I was in the midst of my own bit of a whirlwind on the journey.  Reactively, and almost longingly, I responded with: “What about The Joy in the Silence of the Journey.” She quickly responded, “I love it!”

It felt like a great idea at the time!

A month later, I finally had a window to sit down with a blank sheet of paper to outline this presentation. And then it hit me – this is the worst topic I could have ever chosen. This is a retirement community for goodness sake.  The live in an overwhelming abundance of silence.

All kinds of voices started to fill my head – most were not very kind. Like: “you idiot – of all presentations – they should be making this presentation to you not vice versa (of course that idea of who-should-be-teaching-who comes up in my mind every time I agree to be there with them!). Then even darker thoughts began to creep-in reminding me that, for many, the cheerful Holiday season can be a dark reminder of the more festive and noisy gatherings of yesteryear. And accordingly, a presentation on silence would be the last thing they would want to hear at this most wonderful time of the year. And then it hit me.

Their world may be filled with quiet, yet that doesn’t mean it’s filled with silence.

I had tripped upon a mistake we so often make in interchangeably thinking of quiet and silence. After-all, some of our most limiting thoughts can come to life in the midst of deafening quiet.

You can visibly be in the midst of complete quiet while unknowingly be without a trace of silence. And I would suggest that this quiet without the silence can often lead to isolation and loneliness.

We can make the same mistake in the opposite direction – assuming that silence and chaos are like oil and water.  And in doing so, we can often create needless stress and blindness in the midst of chaos.

The truth is that silence is the joy in the journey whether our path takes us to places of deafening quiet or along stretches of raging chaos.

The joy is, in fact, in the silence.

Following my presentation, one of the residents approached with her walker.  With her precious smile she said, “This is exactly the message I needed to hear tonight. They have been remodeling the apartment next door to me and the noise has been driving me crazy. When they start working tomorrow morning, I will be prepared to soften my anxiety in this silence you have talked about.”

I smiled back as I thought – maybe this part of their journey isn’t as quiet as I thought it was!  I simply replied:  I suppose silence is a joy in every part of our journey.  She flashed back a sweet smile and replied: I think you’re right.

Silence can be found anywhere and everywhere when we are willing to let go of the quiet and the chaos – along with everything in-between.  It is there that we can hear truth in the silence.

As I drove home that night, Silent Night came on the radio. For the first time, I heard it in a whole new dimension of silence.

I would love for you to share your thoughts, insights, and comments below.