One day, Rhea Zakich found she could not speak due to polyps. Life became challenging.

To communicate with her family, she wrote her thoughts on cards. When she saw some of her words put down in print, it horrified her, and she threw it away before anyone could see it.

The cards turned into a best-selling game called The Ungame. One card instructed, “share something you fear.” Her husband drew this card. His response, spoken to his boys, was poignant.

“With your mother ill, I worry what will become of us. I don’t know if I could bring up you boys alone.”

The day came when doctors removed the polyps, and speech returned. But the voiceless time left an imprint.

She had learned to listen.

One day her son came home shouting, “I hate my teacher! I’m never going back to school again!” Here is her response.

Before my vocal-cord problems, I would have responded with my own outburst: “Of course you are, if I have to drag you there myself.” That afternoon I had to wait to see what would happen next. In a few moments, my angry son put his head in my lap and poured out his heart. He said, “Oh, Mom, I had to give a report, and I mispronounced a word. The teacher corrected me, and all the kids laughed. I was so embarrassed.” I wrapped my arms around him. He was quiet for a few minutes. Then suddenly, he sprang out of my arms. “I’m supposed to meet Jimmy at his house. Thanks, Mom.”

Her mouth did not make a difference, but her ears did.

Listening is challenging because it demands so much from us. We have to give complete attention and, if done well, we experience what others feel. It can be unpleasant.

James knew that most of life’s problems come from one source—open mouths and closed ears. That’s why he reminds us:

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” (James 1:19)

Zakich found joy in the silence because her heart could hear the hurts. We are all better off to stop talking so much. Just listen and discover the difference it makes.

-Robert G. Taylor-