Searching the Obvious

Dixil Rodríguez

is a university professor and volunteer hospital chaplain living in Texas.

​Measures of the Heart

I am sitting on a bench outside the children’s rehabilitation center, trying to catch every sound around me. This exercise is more difficult than I thought.

My colleague, Brad, is a musician. He makes the distinction between listening and hearing, and how these are two distinct things. When listening to a musical selection, he can mindfully point out the elegant tone, timing, tuning, sharps, and flats. “I don’t know what I would do if I lost my hearing,” he says. “It is vital to my job.” When we hear, there appears no room to listen to measures of the heart: that which is truly important.

Me? I traded my bow and resin (for playing the violin) for pen and paper. In my job the concept is the same: The nuances of language: what if I needed fine tuning because I could not listen and instead had simply chosen to hear?

In a few moments I will meet a beautiful little girl whose voice I will never hear.

* * *

I am here to meet Angelica, 8, a new arrival to the children’s rehabilitation center family. She is not ill, but recovering from serious injuries that left her an orphan a year ago. Today her adoptive parents will pick her up, and she will be heading home. I cannot fathom the loss.

In the playroom I quickly recognize Angelica and her translator, Sara. Angelica is smiling, talking, her hands moving so quickly that I feel as if I am inadvertently visually eavesdropping on a conversation. Angelica is deaf and speaks American Sign Language. As I walk toward them I remember I am to look at Angelica, not Sara. Sara is the translator, and Angelica is the one I am listening to.

I introduce myself using the little sign language I learned. My hand movements feel so vacant in my small space of spoken words. Angelica smiles and quickly replies that she wants my approval for what she has decided to say to her adoptive parents and her new stepsister, who is also deaf. She has met with them before and spent time with them. Today she will move in to their home. She is grateful. Angelica smiles, and I am reminded of the emotional resilience the Holy Spirit gives freely.

She tells me the story: the car accident; how she lost her parents; how firefighters could not communicate with her and had to call for a translator. She said there was silence. Silence? In that very long silence she watched firefighters try to pry her parents out of a burning vehicle. In that silence her little hands moved, praying the whole time.

Angelica takes my hand and asks, “Does God hear me? Do you think that while I was sitting in the fire truck praying, He saw what I was saying? I asked Him to take care of my parents, to not let them be hurt. If He was trying to talk back to me, I could not hear His voice. Have you ever heard His voice?”

In that moment I am listening. Dear God, what do I say to Your precious child?

“I have not heard the voice of God. But I see it in action. I am learning to listen and not just hear,” I say. Then I share with her the differences I have learned of each one—listening and hearing—from my friend Brad. She smiles, nods, tells me she understands. Then the sweetest sound comes out of her lips: she laughs. Then she signs, “I know what you mean. He listened. I know He listened to me, to my heart.”

Measures of the heart.

* * *

The reunion is a happy one. The two little girls are already as close as sisters. I watch them sign to each other, watching trust built. As I walk with them outside, Angelica brings me a red flower. She touches the flower lightly, holding it up to her face to smell it. She hands me the flower and points at her heart and signs the word “happy”: her heart is happy. I watch her run off with her new sister. I smell the flower and smile, tears in my eyes, imagining my heavenly Father listening along.

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