One Sunday, when my late wife, Kate, and I were taking my aging parents to their First Baptist Church, I was waiting in the busy hallway outside of the restrooms for my mother and Kate. After the worship service there were dozens of people rushing through the hallway to their cars. Some were talking to companions as they waved to friends and paraded along hurriedly. Across the hall, sitting in a row of chairs along the walls were several members of First Baptist’s deaf church. They were signing and signaling each other joyfully as they always do after church, except one nicely dressed elderly lady. She sat there motionless with a somber stare through her dark sun glasses, deaf and apparently also blind. How isolated she must have felt, sitting there alone in a dark silent world, at the edge of this busy hallway stream of traffic.
Then, across the hallway walked a young man, wearing a hearing aid in each ear. He began signing others along the wall as he walked slowly up to the blind lady. Then he painstakingly kneeled down in front of her so that his face was at the same level as hers. Next, he picked up her hands and placed his signing hands inside her palms and began communicating with her. Then, he took her hands and placed them on his partially bearded face so she would know who he was. She began beaming with joy. Her head nodded in acknowledgment of her friend. She smiled over and over, as they shared thoughts between hands. She laughed in her silent way, head still nodding up and down as he exchanged his fellowship and care with her.
Others, walking briskly down the hall missed what was going on here, while a few of us fortunate bystanders, accidentally at the right place at the right time, became captivated by the great Christian love being demonstrated here. One could sense the radiation between these two. They continued to share their joy, and slowly I became captured by something else. That was the sense of a glow of God’s presence, shinning from that kneeling friend.
There must have been a similar glow when Jesus knelt before his disciples to wash their feet. My bystander grin stretched in awe of this scene as it pushed against my cheeks and wiggled off a tear. I whispered a silent thank you, hoping that my love and care for others might one day approach that of this kneeling deaf friend.
I almost missed this one. Because too often I tend to be in the busy middle of the hallway, rushing, moving with the crowd, focused on the door ahead. Too often I don’t see the sideline opportunities, waiting, hoping, and needing a glimpse of God’s love for a friend. Yes, this deaf-blind experience was our second sermon today; and it was completely silent.