Minister’s Musings – Listening to Voices Not Heard

“I speak not for myself but for those without a voice…those who have fought for their rights…their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right for equal opportunity, their right to be educated.”                                                                                                                  – Malala Yousafzai , Youngest Ever Nobel Prize laureate

In seminary, one of the books I was asked to read was “Post-colonialism: A Very Short History.” I picked it up thinking it would be dry and I needed to muster through it. However, I was incredibly surprised. It was full of stories from people on the opposite side of Western viewed history. It told of the bombing of Baghdad from the Iraqi’s point of view; the forced unveilings of Muslim women under the American imposed Shah in Iran; and many more stories of the disenfranchised voices in developing countries. Even though, I did Masters work in Anthropology I somehow missed and overlooked these other voices. 

It is easy to only hear the voices we are accustomed to hearing. There is comfort in having a good idea in what you expect someone to say and to know the story shared by others. However, when we only focus on those known stories, we miss an important opportunity for understanding and a richness of the experience. 

It reminds me of the wise tale about the elephant and four blind villagers. The first villager touching the elephant’s trunk says, “it is long and flexible like a snake;” a second villager touching the elephant’s ears says, “it is wide and thin like a fan;” a third villager touching the elephant’s leg says, “it is solid and firm like a tree;” and the final villager touching the elephant’s tail says, “it is wispy and coarse like a whip.” Each of these villagers have their own understanding of the elephant, but without the experience from the others they will never see the whole picture. 

When you hear a story, you have the opportunity for deeper listening and understanding. Where are the voices you have not heard? What are the emotions and relationships involved? By looking for these voices, we gain a way to add depth to the story and new ways to connect to the human experience.

Peace & Grace,
Rev. Laura

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