I lost my voice last week. Some of you may have experienced losing your voice before. I never have. My voice became hoarse after an all day meeting followed by a late evening Board meeting coupled with the changing and cooler Fall temperatures. My voice went from hoarse to worse until I tried to utter a sound and nothing came out. For almost 3 days I could barely utter a whisper.
The experience was incredibly unnerving. Here in our first world western society, our voice is what enables action to happen. We speak and things go into motion. Through our voice we express our needs, desires, commands and actions before they are set in motion. No voice, no action. I began to realize how much I rely upon my voice in my job – no voice, no leadership and no leadership, no action or momentum.
Again, this was incredibly humbling. Thankfully after a couple of days of resting my voice it gradually has come back now. Nonetheless the experience of losing my voice even temporarily has made me reflective. There are many in our society, all around us in fact, who are voiceless. They are not voiceless in the physical sense but in the empowering sense. The poor among us so often have no voice in the policy debates and decisions that swirl around them on how to best tackle poverty, healthcare and education reform, joblessness and homelessness.
I have always felt that our work at Matchbook Learning is about being a voice for the voiceless. But that presupposes I know what their voice sounds like and have taken the time to ascertain what they would voice if they could. I have a somewhat deeper although nowhere near full appreciation of what being “voiceless” must feel like. Last week as I deferred to colleagues and family members to speak on my behalf, I found myself not always grateful and in fact frustrated that their efforts were not mimicking my true voice – my true desires at the time of expression. You might think that this was both odd and perhaps ungrateful that I would be frustrated at those truly trying to help me and give voice to my lack of voice. Yet, that is what I felt. I wonder if sometimes the families we serve feel the same?
Giving voice to the voiceless is demonstrative, an active step of goodwill and intention. For that voice to be authentic and true to the voiceless, it must be preceded by careful and deliberate listening – a passive step of goodwill and intention.