Once upon a time, my husband Henry drove a cab for a living. Even after we met and married, he continued to drive the 2 pm to 2 am shift on Saturdays because he loved the people he met and the experiences he had. He has told me a number of stories about that work, and I want to share and reflect upon one memorable story today.
He got a call from the dispatcher, who said, “I got this unusual call and knew you were the right person for the job. This client wants you to take him for a drive. It doesn’t matter where, but you have to remain absolutely silent: no talking, no radio, nothing. The client needs silence.”
When Henry showed up at the house, the client got in, handed him a $100 bill, and they took off. Henry decided the easiest thing to do was get on the Massachusetts turnpike, drive west until the meter read $50, then turn around. When they got back to the house, the client got out without a word, and the job was over.
I’ve found myself thinking about that client’s need for silence. For whatever reason, he couldn’t find the silence he craved in his home atmosphere. I’m sure we’ve all been there. Whether it’s the noise of beloved young children, the frantic energy of a hardworking spouse, or even the friendly neediness of pets, sometimes home can’t give us the true silence we crave.
Leaving our house doesn’t always solve the problem. City living isn’t silent, between car horns, conversations on the streets, and streetcars and busses trundling by. We might go to the library, but I know I would be distracted by the books and just as likely to browse the shelves as sit in silence. It can also be difficult for us to disengage from social media and the temptation to check our phones, regardless of where we are sitting.
As we once again approach a busy holiday season, I invite you to think about your own need for silence. After two holiday seasons under the specter of COVID-19, we might feel a tendency to “go all out,” to “get back to normal,” to do all the things we used to do—and more.
Yet we also might need to plan in some time for silence. One way to do that might be to go on retreat. (If you live in the Tucson area, please consider attending my Advent retreat day on Incarnation at St. Philip’s.) Another way to meet the need for silence might be to scope out a place where you can find quiet and calm, such as walking in a park or nature preserve. If the weather cooperates, spend some time on your back porch or balcony during the dawn or dusk of the day.
Or, if you’ve got an extra $100 bill handy, let an understanding professional take you on a silent drive.
What a powerful story and much needed reminder. I have some backed up grief from some recent losses and can feel the hunger for silence. I tend to think about going away for 2 or 3 days. An hour or two is great start to more spaciousness and listening to the Divine. Thanks for the reminder.
You’re welcome, Tom. Yes, sometimes smaller sips of silence can help sustain us until there is bandwidth and readiness for the deeper silences…. Blessings on your journey into silence and grief….
I look forward to the retreat; I am sure there will be much needed opportunities for dedicated silence throughout. Thank you for sharing your good gifts of listening and reflection with us!
You’re welcome, Barbara. So glad you can join us for the retreat as well as here with these posts.
I can also relate to this. I’m fortunate in living alone, not owning a TV, and not owning a smart phone either. These were conscious choices. My house is my quiet sanctuary whenever I wish it so. At other times, I visit with friends, listen to music, or turn on NPR or news on the computer. I loved the story about Henry and the quiet cab drive!
Thank you for sharing your choices with us, Aston. Yes, you are fortunate in living alone in terms of being able to embrace silence when you wish it. So glad you connected with the story!