She stood in the bank queue, leaning heavily on one crutch. Clasped in her free hand was a white envelope around which her fingers curled repeatedly.
A payroll check, I mused to myself as I reviewed the reasons a middle-aged woman might wait for a bank teller on a quiet afternoon. Maybe she’s here to cash her paycheck so she can pay the rent or buy her weekly groceries.
But at the counter she spoke in a voice too loud: “I need a counter check,” she informed the teller. She turned slightly to see if I had heard her announcement, her eyes alight with mystery.
“I’m here to get a counter check so I can go and buy my daughter’s wedding dress,” she said as though she was speaking to a hundred people instead of only the teller and me. She pulled well-wrinkled bills out of the curled envelope. “I’ve saved $200 to buy my daughter her wedding dress.”
She glanced around the empty bank, clearly wishing for a bigger audience for this moment she had spent weeks imagining and working toward. One more quick glance my direction identified me as the designated hearer of this tiny moment of human drama.
Her business done at the window, she stepped toward the door, a little straighter in her stride, her crutch not quite so necessary.
I smiled at the teller as he waited on me, searching his face to see if he had also been a witness to this fleeting bit of joy and pride. But no, he seemed wrapped in the numbness of his counting tasks—hearing everything, but actually hearing little.
Was this the reason for my day? I wondered as I drove slowly home. Was this the chief thing God intended me to accomplish on this day—to be a witness to the joy of just one human being? And on how many other days has this perhaps also been God’s plan for me—to attend to the quiet joys and hidden sorrows of those unheard and unesteemed?
For all our righteous focus on proclamation and presentation, let’s also come to cherish the days when we are audience and listeners instead of speakers only. The ear we tune to hear a neighbor’s joy or pain will often be more useful than either our tongues or hands can ever be. This day, this week, this month, be an audience of one, and so fulfill the law of One who always listens when we speak.