Monday, April 12, 2010

The Listening Well

One day, while playing in the woods near his home, Jimmy found a well, hidden by some bushes not too far from the grandfather oak tree. The stones were fitted together like jigsaw pieces with no glue or mortar. Jimmy, like any child of seven, found a nearby rock and dropped it in, waiting for it to splash. He counted. 1...2...3...4...5...6...7...8...9...10... But there was no splash. He waited until he counted to 200, got bored and left.

If someone would have asked him about the well, he would have told them. It didn't start out being a secret. He just forgot about it for that day and the next. Then it rained, and Jimmy sat in his living room, staring out past the tear stained window pain as God watered the earth. His head sat in his hands, his eyes half closed, and this thoughts went back to the well. This was when he decided to keep it secret. "It will be my special place." He thought to himself. "A place where I can be by myself."

His mother walked up behind him. "Why don't we read a book?" Jimmy didn't want to read. He didn't like reading. It was hard for him. The letters keep switch places when he wasn't looking.

"I don't wanna read." But he read anyway. He sounded out letters and made words out of the sounds. Whenever he saw a word longer than ten letters, he would breath out an exasperation. If it took him more than three tries, his eyes would water up tears would stream down his face like the rain on the window pane. "I hate reading," he would tell his mom.

His mother, who never raised her voice at his displeasure, would tell him that even though it was difficult, he could still do it if he just tried enough times. And after reading more, his writing would get better and then there wasn't anything he couldn't do.

"Can't I just talk?" He asked.

"Writing is much better than talking, and listening is better than writing." His mother answered. "You need to listen more, so you know what words sound like. That way, when you read them, you just recognize them."

"But what about talking?"

"What about it?"

"Why can't I just talk?"

"Do you have something you want to talk about?"

"Umm... no." His thoughts went to the well, but he wanted to keep that secret.

"Well then, if there is nothing to come out, it's time to put something in. So listen and read until you have something to say. If you want to talk, I'll listen. However, it is much better to write your thoughts than say them. That way, when you read them, you can listen to yourself."

It stopped raining. "Can I go outside?"

"Yes, you may go outside. Just put on your boots and raincoat first."

Jimmy put on his boots raincoat, grabbed a piece of paper and a colored pencil, and ran out the back door into the woods under the bushes to the well. "You shall be my listening well." He whispered into it. There was no echo. He wrote his name on the piece of paper and dropped it down the well. He watched it float down into the darkness. He counted to 200. He imagined the paper and the rock falling forever.

Over the years, Jimmy visited the well almost daily. As he got older, he read constantly, and carried journals with him everywhere. He had different journals for different kind of thoughts. He had political journals in which he recorded different types of government as he learned in his history classes. He had science journals in which he wrote down every new scientific break through he could find. He had a philosophical journal in which he tried to define words like right and wrong and good and bad and sin and redemption. And among his many journals, he had one that was special. It never had any writing in it. It would just get thinner and thinner until it ran out and he would have to replace it. This was the journal in which he wrote his deepest thoughts, ripped them out and dropped them down the well. He would always count to 200 after he dropped in each one. He would whisper into the well, asking for his secrets to be kept, his prayers to be answered, and his dreams to come true.

He imagined all those pieces of paper falling down, floating, not in a hurry to get to the bottom because there wasn't a bottom to get to. No matter how crazy life was up here with midterms and jobs and school dances, his deepest thoughts floated slowly to no where in complete darkness.

One day, he stood before the well in a tuxedo.

"I know I don't normally do this," he told the well, "but I'm in a bit of a hurry." He fidgeted his fingers and looked down at his shaking hands. "I'm not coming back here. I'm starting a new life today. I'm moving out. I'm getting married. I got a job lined up across the country." His voice found a strength he didn't know he had. "You've been a good friend. You've taken my deepest darkest secrets and you swallowed them up. You never judged me or called me slow or stupid. But I am different now. I've changed and I don't need you anymore. I only have one more note to leave you." He took out a piece of paper and a colored pencil, scribbled out a quick note, and dropped it down the well.

This time he didn't count. He didn't imagine the note floating down forever. Instead, he imagined a bottom far beyond what he could see, father than 200 seconds of fall time. He imagined a rock, covered by thousands of worries and fears and dreams and hopes and thoughts and opinions and slander, and the one on top saying, "I've found Jesus. From now on, I look up."

1 comment:

Ria P said...

Amen, easy how we forget to look up sometimes. Thanks for the reminder Jonathan. God Bless you on your journey.