As of late it seems lots of people have lots to say about lots of things. In many ways our communities have benefited greatly from the voices that can now be heard through the proliferation of social media platforms. Our communities have profited from the availability of information at our fingertips and our ability to make choices, based on that information, to create positive changes around us. Yet even as there is much power carried in the movement resulting from these many voices, I believe there is also much power in just being: when the absence of words says all that is necessary to fill our space.
There is power in sitting silently on our sofa with a neighbor whose husband has just been deployed for eight months. We sit next to her, void of words for this mother of three young children who has just said “see you soon” to their father, suppressing her fears in their presence but allowing them to surface through tears while she sits with you, in quietude.
When it is difficult to thread together all of our thoughts into something coherent to say to our friend whose father is suffering unbearably because of advanced cancer, we sit next to her in stillness. We trust that she feels what isn’t being said because we know: there is power in being still.
Every year on the first Tuesday of August communities all around the country host National Night Out. It is an opportunity for residents and the law enforcement members serving their particular neighborhoods to come together in a spirit of cooperation and gratitude for each other, knowing that the basis of a thriving relationship is ingrained within this spirit. Memphis’ Downtown Neighborhood Association joined thousands of other organizations in hosting this year’s event, which took place locally at the Central Station Pavilion.
As I sat at my table and looked around at all who’d come out in support of this event, I noticed that though many were conversing there were also many who were silent and it is their silence which spoke so reverently. In the midst of all that has been said on all that has been happening, here there were moments of stillness for both police officers and community members who sat side by side, perhaps celebrating these quiet moments when more was felt than was actually said. The agenda that evening was that there was no agenda. We were all gathered under the pavilion, paused in a time of reflection on those that have made our communities better because of the choices they have made with the power they have been given. Because we always have a choice.
There is so much going on in our world today that warrants conversation, conversation that we hope will lead to change. While many conversations are taking place publicly, there are many had in the privacy of our homes, on our sofas with those we deeply care about. There are conversations during which words appear endless but there also conversations when words are few. Sometimes the pain with which we are confronted is so immense that we actually forgo words for silence. I believe that for many this year at Downtown’s National Night Out the power was felt in our stillness; in our ability to just be.