Silence in a Crowded Room

A large, crowded room that had previously been loud with confrontation dropped still and silent for a full minute to acknowledge a value that many of them, I can tell you, didn’t share. And it was because she asked their permission.

I heard a poet speak at a summit yesterday. She gave a really good talk on telling stories, then answered a few questions, a couple of which were asinine. It was somewhat comforting to know that I’m not the only one who gets dumb questions when I talk? She cut off a confrontational-heading set of audience questions at noon, because, as she had asked our permission to do when she began her talk, yesterday was World Peace Day, and we were acknowledging it with a moment of silence.

A large, crowded room that had previously been loud with confrontation dropped still and silent for a full minute to acknowledge a value that many of them, I can tell you, didn’t share. And it was because she asked their permission.

It was the point of her talk. To listen, to value, to ask as a means of moving a group forward to solve problems rather than pushing people aside because you don’t agree with them. She’s a gracious person and nationally recognized for it. It was fitting that the dumb questions (I’m calling them dumb because they were self-servingly political rather than about her work or what she had just told us), which began with a pointed question about how there could even be a story about carrying guns in a room in which a good half of the participants own and/or carry guns (pretty sure about 25% had a gun on them) and ended with the minute of silence when the tension in the room reached tangible levels.

After that minute the tension had dissipated to nothing. She closed to loud applause, and I had to hold myself back from running up to the stage to ask her to take a selfie with me. I hope people took in what she said, but more than that what she did. In the space of an hour she told us how to act then acted on it. It was subtle until the minute of silence, when a room full of people may have actually made a small contribution to world peace.

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