I lost my voice this week. For three agonizing days, my throat has hurt to talk, and while I’m not what you would call “chatty,” I am a communicator, and having a weak voice at best has been frustrating.
My son, God love him, who is almost 6, thinks it’s hilarious to say, “What? I can’t hear you” when I ask him a question. I’m pretty sure he can hear me, and I’m not always patient in my reply.
The first day, I was whispering and then a friend told me that whispering is actually harder on your voice than regular speaking, so I gave up on that and tried to use my voice at whatever level I could. My daughter, who is 7 1/2, took to repeating everything I said so that her brother would attempt to follow directions. I gestured a lot and tried to communicate messages to my husband so he could speak for me. I’m not sure I realized how much I talk to the kids until I couldn’t.
It’s exhausting to have no voice. Everything is harder. I haven’t received many phone calls, which is good, because I would probably let most of them go to voicemail. I’m grateful to still have the ability to text and e-mail and write things on Facebook, so at the end of the day I still feel like I’ve communicated something. But it’s hard for me to resist speaking to my in-real-life people.
There’s a moment each morning when I wonder if my voice has come back. I’m almost reluctant to try it out because of the disappointment I’ll feel if it hasn’t returned. Each day shows some improvement, but I’m not sure when I’ll be fully functional again.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.
I have been drawn to these words from Scripture for as long as I can remember reading the Bible. Something stirs within me when I read them. I did not know how to listen and respond to those stirrings early on, but in recent years, I know that if my heart beats faster, if goosebumps pop up on my arms, if a “rightness” settles into my soul, I need to pay attention.
That’s what these words do to me.
I have never been the kind of person who speaks up in defense of others. As a child, if someone was being bullied or picked on or made fun of, I was usually just relieved that it wasn’t me this time. I rarely stood up for myself, much less others, and sadly, I often joined in the bullying to take the attention away from me.
Speaking up for someone is the opposite of that. Attention drawn, spotlight on you, and I have long wanted to avoid the spotlight. I like to blend in and fade into the background, to go unnoticed.
At least that’s how it has been in the past. I’m breaking free from some of that, but still, the attention is what I fear.
Because isn’t it true that the person in the spotlight is critiqued by those sitting in the shadows?
I am guilty as charged on that count.
So, why would I want to speak up and draw attention to myself?
I never wanted to speak up. I never wanted to be a dissenting voice. I never wanted to create conflict or make myself an object of critique. I still don’t sometimes.
But something, or Someone, compels me to obey those verses.
To speak up for those who have lost their voice, figuratively, and figuratively, I still have mine.
When our family landed in poverty even though we are college-educated, I could not keep silent about the stereotypes assigned to the poor, especially those who receive government assistance.
When I learned about human trafficking and how some of my favorite “luxury” items like chocolate and coffee are the product of modern-day slavery (and how girls as young or younger than my daughter are sold for sex), I could not keep silent.
When I read about the refugee crisis in the Middle East and how some are relocating to the area where I live, I cannot ignore the need. (For an excellent perspective in a refugee’s own words, read this blog post.)
See, not everyone has a voice.
Those who live in poverty, whether in the States or abroad, have almost no say in how they are portrayed or treated.
Those who are enslaved in the sex industry or through unfair wages, often cannot speak up for fear of punishment.
Those who flee their home country because it is not safe anymore may be too afraid, or unwilling, to speak.
Their stories matter, though, and while I will not pretend to speak for them because I have not lived their experiences, I want to speak up, to amplify their message so that others may hear.
When I lost my voice, my daughter and my husband could not predict all the things I wanted to say. They could not do all my speaking for me. But they could listen to the whispers, the weak speech, and use their own stronger voices so my message could be received.
That is what speaking up for people is about.
We have strong voices. (If you don’t believe me, may I present the red cup controversy of late as exhibit A.)
Let’s vow to use them to magnify the stories and messages of those whose voices are lost or weak, for whatever reason. Let us not pretend to know their stories and speak for them but to lean in and listen closely and then speak up so they can be heard.
Which are you more likely to do–speak up or stand aside? How can you use your voice to speak up for someone else?