No other person is ever to be discounted as a vehicle for Your whisper – friend or stranger, those we like and those we don’t. Whomever You use to speak to us is not our choice. So we should ever be tuned in and not surprised from where Your voice comes.
I am usually a very quiet person. I seldom initiate conversations and, even then, don’t say much. Recently I learned something about myself from a kitchen worker at a local hunger center. I’d seen this woman many times before and she always said hello and was friendly. This one time she engaged me in a humor-laced conversation about the foibles of some of her co-workers. As soon as I smiled she figured she had the ear she was looking for and she went on with gusto and laughter. My part in this, in hindsight, is what concerns me. I guess you could say I encouraged her even though I was an unwilling participant in the conversation. My laughing along with her and saying, “Oh, Yah,” and “That’s right,” just built her momentum. When it was over I realized what I had done was to affirm her own opinions of others even though, inside, I may not have agreed with them. The listening was OK, but for the rest my silence would have been better for both her and me. When you weigh what is spoken against silence, silence is the winner. That was the lesson of that encounter.
But then on the evening of that same day I listened silently in an auditorium to a lengthy exposition by two women whose lives had been drastically changed by drunken drivers. The impact of a single, swift event upon a person’s life and the suffering it brought with it revealed the awesome power of suffering in a person’s life. Suffering not only teaches but can be life changing. The direction of a person’s whole life – a life that could be measured by decades – is yanked by unforeseen powers from our control and forced into an entirely different direction. One of these women was a victim of this not once but four separate times. Each time a loved one was taken away by a drunken driver and her life was yanked in a new direction. The power of suffering to influence our lives is almost unimaginable. But we learn. We learn about ourselves. We learn about others; and we learn about You.
You, in Your time, probably did not want to perform all the miracles You did. You probably just wanted to teach and tell stories to get Your message across. But Your compassion for the suffering moved You. There is an unavoidable power for change in suffering. In us it can work miracles. In others it is like a magnet that draws us into their sufferings. In either case the lesson is that suffering teaches.