“It’s true. I’m not a doctor… I taught elocution in schools. When the great war came, all of our soldiers were returning to Australia from the front. A lot of them were shell shocked, unable to speak. Somebody said, ‘Lionel, you’re pretty good at all this speech stuff. Do you think you could possibly help these poor buggers?’ I did muscle therapy, exercises, relaxation, but I knew I had to go deeper. Those poor young blokes had cried out in fear; no one was listening to them. My job was to give them faith in their own voice and let them know that a friend was listening.”
I suddenly understood why I was drawn to this movie, a story about a man of great standing who couldn’t use his voice because it had been trained out of him through ridicule and teasing when he began stammering as a child. I understood why, too, the television show, Touch and movies like Children of a Lesser God, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Miracle Worker and now, The King’s Speech have captured my attention and held it raptly. They are all shows about people who are trying to be heard through whatever means of communication they can learn or develop or be shown.
This afternoon, as I cried with “Bertie” while he tried to master a smooth speech and then listened to his friend, Lionel, explain why he does what he does – even though he’s not a “doctor” with proper credentials – I felt my heart pop open and start to sing. It is that – hearing people, helping them release their trapped stories, helping them heal and trust their voices and then use their voices – that is what I do, it is who I am.
For as long as I can remember, I have loved hearing stories. And, as I’ve grown up, listening to the stories of the lives of other people has become not only a passion, but a way of bringing healing to this world, a way of serving. So many of us have been trapped in stories for far too long – stories that continue to tear at us and break us down and defeat us. All that needs to happen is for someone to hear the story in whatever language that can be shared.
I am remembering an experience in one of my trainings were we were doing a rebirthing process. I was teamed with one of my mentors and I was there to be witness to her being born. She was like watching a baby bird emerging from her energetic shell. Her eyes were wide and she was stretching her neck, like she was trying to see over the edge of her nest. Her blue eyes grew as brilliant as a crystalline sky and, before my very eyes, she became a baby without the ability to talk other than in “coo’s” and “gah’s.”
Suddenly, even though I couldn’t understand the language she was speaking with my conscious brain, I knew that I knew, somewhere deep inside, the language she was using. She began telling me this story and, I felt excited and interested and then, just like I instinctively do with every baby, I said, “Really? What else?”
When I said those words, her eyes grew even wider and her story tumbled out in “coo’s” and “gah’s” and infantile gestures and body movements. We interacted like that for a full 15 minutes, the baby language following the natural ebb and flow of a story. I knew everything she was saying somewhere inside of me, but my brain retained nothing, understood nothing.
After the story ended, she stared at me and the tears rolled down her cheeks. In the silence, I heard the rest of the story and her sadness tumbled out. There were no words for this part of the story because the baby hadn’t understood this part of the story. But the soul had. And that was the part that poured forth into the abyss of healing. She cried for a few minutes, the healing washing over her and then she crawled into my arms to be held and rocked for awhile.
After the comfort of a mother’s embrace had soothed her wounds, she looked up at me and said, “Angie, I know you could understand me. Somehow, you understood everything I was saying to you and you listened.”
I had forgotten that experience until right now, when I heard Lionel say, “My job was to give them faith in their own voice and let them know that a friend was listening.”
And… in the quiet of this afternoon, as I sit here silently, I feel immensely grateful for the honor of being a safe steward of Stories and a Healer of the Wounds trapped within them.