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Twenty Seconds Of Sacred Silence

Post-dinner, two of us were sharing heart-to-heart stories. Then a third, fourth, fifth and sixth person organically magnetized. Stories veered in the direction of Gandhi, MLK, Mandela. And Rwanda. The vibe continued to elevate.

Then he spoke: "Can I share something?" "I'm actually afraid of silence. And it's weighing me down." Looking at me, he said, "You said something early in the conversation that has stayed with me -- hands, head, heart. What do you mean by that? I'm afraid my fear of silence of is blocking my heart, and I wonder if there's other pathways to it."

We spoke. Then he pulled out his phone. Loaded up a photo. "I'm Tootsie from Rwanda. You know the genocide in our country that killed over a million people. 80 members of my family were killed. My three sisters and both parents were abused and killed in front of my eyes, while I was in a hiding spot."

In our stunned pause, tears flowed down many cheeks, as we tenderly held the many details in our friend's description.

"This man," he continued pointing to his phone and showing us a photo, "was the man who killed my family. For 29 years, I've been holding this pain -- and 7 years ago, I decided I wanted to visit him in prison and tell him that I forgave him." So two months ago, he went to visit that man. He introduced himself, and said, "I came to let you know that I forgive you for what you did to my family." Then he asked, "How are you doing?" That man spoke for 2 hours straight, re-enacting all the events of the day.

"They were all lies. That hurt even more, but I didn't say anything," he said, now with tears in his own eyes. "But you know, his son contacted me last month for some help around his wedding. I couldn't get myself to go, but I sent some money. He was so surprised, that I would support him despite what his family did to mine. And I texted him back, 'You were just an innocent child.'"

After our hour-long conversation, he brought it back to his original inquiry. "I keep running away from silence, afraid of what will show up in the basement of my consciousness, but it's tiring me out. I want to grow my heart."

We all held hands in a circle, and asked him to be in silence with us and end it whenever he felt it was sufficient for now.

It was twenty seconds of sacred silence.

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