I have been in London for a week and a half. Really? I’ve experienced too much for that to be all.
The noise is overwhelming. There are more than 8 million voices in this city. Musical cacophony.
Life is filling my soul at a rate I’m not used to. So much has happened in these last eleven days. I’ve been journaling like a madwoman, quietly allowing my voice to fill pages of paper that only I will ever read. My emotions are stretched to the limit and it wasn’t until today that I felt I could sit down and just tell you what life has been like without falling apart on top of the computer. 😉
I’m struggling with myself about what I should share with you. There are so many voices in London, and try as I might, I can’t sum up London with one voice. But maybe that’s the first thing I’m meant to learn from my time here.
So here are some voices –
- Victoria and Chrissie were the enthusiastic voices accompanied by waves, smiles, hugs and warm welcomes for us newly arrived Christian missionaries from America.
- Linda’s voice was the warm motherly one that calmed Katharine and I on the way to our new house and told us about our internship for the coming year.
- I can only understand a fraction of the voices in the grocery store, the post office, and bank in my neighborhood of Peckham. Languages from around the world intersect right here in my new home, and my knowledge of English and French will only allow me to really listen to some of them. Fortunately, I can watch their facial expressions, see parents chasing after children down the produce aisle and guess what they might be saying.
- The woman at the bus stop on our first day heading to the Springboard office was singing to herself, beautifully and LOUD – I couldn’t understand the words of her African heritage, but she seemed to be lost in the wonder of her morning, her eyes piercing and vibrant.
- The British Caribbean man who taught the Zumba class I attended kept telling our group to add more “flay-va” to our dancing – “This is Zumba. We’re supposed to make fools of ourselves!”
- Lovely French words drift through my window from the next door neighbors who devote so much time to their garden. There are a lot of other French speakers around here, and the African and Caribbean dialects make it hard for me to understand. But it’s like dark chocolate for my ears.
- The children’s laughter on the playgrounds in my neighborhood is so full of joy – the world would be such a better place if grownups weren’t afraid of being happy.
- Two other Christian missionaries from Thailand and Italy I met on the street asked if they could pray with me. It was a beautiful moment full of love and empathy.
- The stranger who greeted me by telling me “I love your smile” …and that was it. He walked away and I’ll probably never see him again, but he made me feel so special in this city of 8 million voices.
- The voices, or lack of voice, of all the unmet need I have witnessed even in my short time here are daunting…boundaries made of prejudices against race, sexuality, class, language, and citizenship keep a lot of voices from being heard even within the borders of a single city. But I’ve only scratched the surface with the people I’ve seen in less than two weeks…
And then as I lay in the grass near the Houses of Parliament on Saturday morning, reading London by Edward Rutherfurd, I hear the voices of three consecutive high school groups. I can’t understand the languages of their European home countries, but I can see that they are wide eyed, wearing skinny jeans, and taking a lot of pictures with iconic London scenery behind them. I wonder how they can possibly say they have really heard the voice of London by only listening to Big Ben strike the hour. But I need to get off my high horse, given that I have been in London less than two weeks. Have I really listened to London yet?
Here’s my prayer — God, please help me listen. Really listen. Help me listen with not only my ears, but with my hands and feet as well. With my eyes. With my nose and mouth. It’s overwhelming to even attempt deep listening – all of this life would make a human explode if it had to wrap its finite brain around all the souls and sounds. But maybe that’s why we have you — to brace our skeletons, our muscles, our emotion — as you allow us to expand beyond all the previous limits. Thank you for the grace to grow.