Helen Gottstein
Corporate public speaking skills for people of ambition

Blessed Silence

Mum turns to me and says, “I think it might be time for me to go to a nursing home.” This comes at the tail end of 18 months of managing her independent living at home with a caregiver, her extensive hospital stays, her medicines, her doctors’ visits and finally, now, a week of home hospice because she has always said, “I want to stay home.” I say, “Now? Now, you want to go to a nursing home?” I should have held my tongue.

A group of perhaps 100 women meet at the Goldman Promenade overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem for a silent, interfaith walk. The explanation of how to both walk and be silent seems inordinately long and strident. “Keep silent!! Don’t pass the head group!! Walk with intention!! Turn off your phones!! Deal with the walk being slow!! Under no circumstances pass the head group!! Think about the walking!! No-one passes the head group.” On and on.

Eyebrows rise around me. But then, when we walk, it is profound. What a contrast to the lava of words that pours out over Jerusalem every day: the analysis, conjecture, evaluation, speculation, blame, claim, assertion, rejection, force, right, dismissal, anger, hate, hope, prayer, and a double serve of curses exchanged and this large, quiet group. There was a different kind of power in our shared quiet. A lull in the verbal battle-scape of Jerusalem. Like a cool pool in a heat wave. Looking out over Al Aksa/ the Temple Mount, the epicenter of all that noise, I felt the torrent of words abate. All that talking, silenced. What a relief.

The kids no longer walk the dog. It’s me and the beast. Walking the same Goldman Promenade as all those briefly silent women on a daily basis, I pass people coming up from Jabber Mukabber, the Arab neighborhood down the hill. For me, it’s practice your limited Arabic time. First “Boker tov”, good morning in Hebrew, and then “Sabach el’chir.” Two days ago, a young man is taken aback and mumbles the Hebrew back to me. To my blessing in Arabic he responds, “Sabach el charah.” He wishes me a shitty morning. How do you say, I’m sorry you’re hurting, in Arabic? I was silent and kept walking.

About the Author
Helen Gottstein, Loud and Clear Training, boosts public speaking skills for people of ambition and corporate teams so they reach their speaking goals. She's a popular public speaker, a TEDX mentor and a lousy cook.
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