What just happened? I admit my mind had been preoccupied. I hadn’t really been listening to my friends’ conversation, but was instead daydreaming about what I would wear to the upcoming dance. When there was a lull in the conversation, I had asked, “So, who’s going to the dance tomorrow night?” Silence. Grace and Layla had stared at me in disbelief as Madison turned and walked away.
“What did I say?” I asked.
“It’s more what you didn’t say,” Grace answered, “like ‘I’m so sorry, Madison.’”
“Sorry about what?” I asked.
“Caroline, Maddie’s grandma just died.”
“Oh no, I can’t believe I just did that. I wasn’t listening; I was too busy thinking about the stupid dance. I have to go talk to her!” As I turned, I saw Madison getting into her mom’s car and watched them drive off. “I guess I’ll have to call her.”
“She and her mom are driving straight to Indianapolis today. The funeral is tomorrow. You really didn’t hear anything she said, did you?” Layla was right, I hadn’t heard a word.
That night I got down on my knees next to my bed. “Dear God, I come to you with a humble heart and ask for your forgiveness. I acted selfishly today and hurt my friend, Madison. She was already hurting, and I made it worse. What can I possibly do to make it up to her?” I kneeled in silence for a while, just listening. And then God spoke. In His still, small voice He gave me instruction, but I didn’t want to hear it.
“Mom?” I stepped into my parents’ bedroom. They were both in bed with their reading glasses on, each holding a book, the glow from their bedside lamps illuminating the tops of their heads. “Can you drive me to Indianapolis?”
We got a few hours sleep and started our journey before the morning sun had even peeked above the horizon. When I heard God tell me to go to Indianapolis, my first thought had been, “What about the dance?” But it took no more than a minute for me to realize that I had to take this trip. Mom and I were quiet at first, but after our first snack stop, the sugar from the donuts kicked in and we started to talk. She told me about a similar situation that had happened to her.
“Mind you, I didn’t have to drive 500 miles to apologize.” We laughed and it felt good. It felt good to talk and have someone listen attentively and with care. In her eyes I saw love and empathy, and in her touch was healing and comfort.
Mom told me, “I once heard someone say, ‘There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for.*’” I understood. God knew that those 500 miles would be a time of discovery for me and would prepare me for my conversation with Madison.
At 2 o’clock in the afternoon we made our way up the long driveway that lead to Madison’s grandparents’ house. I had looked up her grandfather’s phone number before we’d left and had called earlier that morning to get directions and to let him know we were coming. The house was beautiful, a large farmhouse surrounded by cornfields and apple trees. The air was crisp and calming. I breathed in a good portion of it and let it seep into my entire body before letting it out with a long, soulful sigh.
“You okay?” Mom asked as we stood at the front door.
“I’ll be much better after I see Maddie,” I said, and hoped it was the truth. The door opened and there stood my dear friend. She was wrapped in her grandmother’s ratty old shawl and her eyes were red and puffy.
“Caroline? What are you doing here?”
“I’m here for you, Maddie.”
“But, the dance…”
“There’ll be other dances, but there was only one Grandma Jean.” She flung herself into my arms and I knew I was forgiven.
Madison and I spent the next couple hours talking about her grandmother and all the special times they had shared. I learned what an amazing lady her grandmother was, enabling me to share in the joy and the sorrow the family was experiencing. I promised myself that I would never again treat a conversation lightly, for there is so much to learn in the words of others, and blessings to be offered in the listening.
*James Nathan Miller
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