In our home we have a four year old and a seven month old. Life can get loud. Our four year old sings, laughs, tells silly stories, asks for snacks, and wonders about everything with persistent ‘why’s?’ and ‘how-come’s?’ She is curious and wants her voice to be heard. Our seven month old has her own way of joining the conversation with hollers, squeals and giggles. It can feel like a circus at times and some days we would give anything for a moment of quiet.
However, there’s something happening in this daily noisy rhythm that brings joy to my heart. Our family is alive. It is alive with ideas, discoveries, jokes, and stories. Each time we sit together over a meal or have story time or talk about our day it reminds me that we are a home that is growing, and growth in a family is loud and beautiful.
Even when our kids fall down and cry or try to negotiate with whining and tears, even these noises are signs of life. They are learning how to communicate and get their emotions out on the table for all to hear. It requires patience, but the hope is that our expressive family will bear forth life, belonging, friendship, faith, and love.
Canadian musician Carolyn Arends says, “We have two choices – express what is really in our hearts or go mute… nothing kills a relationship faster than the silent treatment.” Going mute truly does destroy relationships. When kids feel like their parents are too busy working or looking on their phones to listen, they will begin to stop sharing their stories and asking their questions. In doing so, something in the family breaks down. Similarly, in marriages where couples no longer share their hopes and dreams, couples become roommates when they may have once felt like partners and allies. Stories, ideas, jokes, and even spoken frustrations are all vital to the health of a family. It may be loud, but it is a sign of life.
In our neighbourhoods we have a choice to make as well. We either foster a culture of stories, jokes, laughter, and even spoken anxieties or questions, or we subtly encourage people to stay quiet. We can face our fears with new connections and a clatter of voices, or we can give each other, and our concerns, the silent treatment. Nothing kills a neighbourhood faster than closing down and keeping quiet.
May we discover a new way to raise our voices in our neighbourhoods, communities, and cities. May we avoid going mute when we need to speak up. May we encourage each other to tell stories, may we listen well, and may we always find ways of sharing our stories with grace and hope. Then one day, when your yard is full of neighbours and friends sharing food over a BBQ, and the circus of noise and laughter fills the air, may you discover that your neighbourhood is truly alive and beautiful.