Conversation Without Words

Seated under the giant mango tree, Bebe sat in silence staring into the distance. This is not an uncommon sight. Often he will be roaming the yard doing his job while talking to himself and anyone else around.

Bebe is unlike anyone I have ever met. I have no clue how old he actually is, but my best guess is around 60. He is mute and deaf. He does not know how to read, nor can he communicate via sign language. With these hurdles, we still shared a conversation.

Proudly he pulled out an English newspaper and started to intently stare at it. It reminded me of a focused stock trader reading the Wall Street Journal looking for a smallest piece of knowledge to give him a leg up on the competition. That was the intensity in his eyes.

After a few seconds, he spotted the word "Medicare" on an advertisement. The intense focus led way to a smile beaming from ear to ear, revealing his toothless grin. His teeth fell victim to years of eating raw sugarcane and the absence of dental care.

The smile revealed his joy that he spotted a word he recognized. Through grunts and hand gestures we "discussed" the meaning of the term. You try explaining government medical coverage to a man living in Haiti that lacks the ability to speak, hear, or sometimes eat. Add in language and cultural barriers. It seemed impossible to convey.

Whether he understood me or not, he shook his head in agreement, waited a moment, then took his newspaper to compare it with a plaque written in English about the Haitian man who helped make this school a reality. Bebe found a common word between the newspaper and the plaque. The word was "the". He ushered me over to share in his delight. His smile had returned.

I congratulated him on a job well done. He soaked up his moment of accomplishment. After a few more attempts at communicating verbally, we both realized that words were not necessary. A few minutes of peaceful silence passed, then he got back to work cleaning the grounds.

Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.

- Saint Francis of Assisi

Bryan Clifton

Oklahoma City, OK