Without a Word

Savannah Wood, 20

Silence was awkward for me. As an outgoing and talkative person, silence made me feel uneasy. Silence meant that something was wrong and needed to be fixed—sometimes by talking for the sake of talking. I always had a conversation going on, even if the conversation painfully dragged on, going nowhere.

When I walked in the door for an interview at an adult day center, a middle-aged man walked up to me, smiled brightly, and shook my hand. I greeted him and asked his name; he just smiled. I asked a few more questions. He didn’t respond. Confused about why he wasn’t talking, I glanced at the director. She explained, “This is Chris; he is nonverbal.” I met several other people who were nonverbal. I was freaked out by the idea of working with people who didn’t talk. How would I get to know them? How could I know what they liked and needed? How could I do anything with people who didn’t talk? The idea was overwhelming.

teen hug elderly man FTR TSP 187665441I got the job. I found out that all my preconceived ideas about silence were wrong. Chris, the man who greeted me on the first day, has greeted me with a hug every time I’ve seen him. He has never said a word to me, but I know him. He is a people person and shows others that he cares with warm smiles, hugs, and handshakes. He’s always the first to greet people and to make them feel welcome. He loves doodling and generously shares his work with his friends. Chris is emotionally intelligent. If I am stressed out, he rubs my shoulders. Before meeting Chris, I never thought I could get to know people who do not speak.

Working with Chris and other individuals who are nonverbal, I have learned that silence doesn’t always need to be fixed. Nonverbal actions and reactions often speak louder than words. Wanting to fix a situation by speaking is natural, but sometimes our presence is all that people want and need. We don’t need to fix problems, to explain ourselves, to say something that will make other people feel better. We need to be there. Listening or being silent with another person shows that we care. Sometimes caring means embracing silence.

Sometimes God is silent when caring for us. God listens to our prayers and gives us time to reflect. Sometimes God answers our prayers by asking us to wait. A year ago, silence from God made me as uncomfortable as silence from people. But now I am able to embrace silence. Ecclesiastes 3:7b (NIV) says there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak.” Sometimes when caring for people, we need to speak. At other times, silence speaks.

Listen for the Holy Spirit; look for God’s guidance. Speak when you are led to speak; but don’t be afraid of silence, because God often speaks in the silence.



devozine I Got This TS 78054708Let actions speak louder than words. Find a way to show someone you care without saying a word. Here are a few ideas:

  • Cook a meal for a neighbor.
  • Smile at a stranger.
  • Clean the house for your parents.
  • Give hugs—lots of hugs!
  • Don’t talk. Listen. Pay attention to what another person has to say.
Savannah Wood, 20 , is an Iowa girl who works at an adult day center. She enjoys music, cats, goats, being involved in church, reading, being outdoors, meeting new people, and spending time with friends and family.

—from devozine (January/February 2015). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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