|Photo Credit: Matthew Knutson|
It wasn't just a regular discussion, however; it was a silent discussion.
I'd gotten the idea from a former student who had learned about it from one of the history professors on campus; he'd done it occasionally in his classes.
As people arrived this particular morning, I was pretty nervous; what if it went badly? I loved the idea, but was it too different? Would people think it was weird and not participate? I'd set up the power point with instructions and we had someone playing the piano for background music.
Slowly, a couple of people got up to start the discussion (ok, I'd asked them ahead of time to do that in case everyone else was too shy to be first). But even as they got up, so did others that I had not asked, and then more, and there was rarely a moment when someone was not writing something. Often, people were standing in line to write their thoughts and respond to others' thoughts. Nobody had to feel intimidated or bullied due to another's tone or facial expressions. Nobody had to feel as though they couldn't speak up. Nobody had to get nervous about the spotlight being on them, because multiple people could "speak" at one time.
Chapel only lasts for 20 minutes, and people wrote the entire time. Some even stayed afterwards in order to continue the discussions. We almost ran out of room on the paper, as you can see in the picture above.
It was a beautiful day and I will always remember it, because although there were differing thoughts and ideas and questions, it was civil. There were no raised voices; there was no yelling; there was no arrogance or hostility or belittling. It was simply an exchange of ideas about who this person of Jesus, that we all believe in, was and is.
It truly was a special day, and I hope to be able to have more silent discussions in the future. It serves as a reminder that we are too often quick to voice our opinions and quick to dismiss others. In this discussion, we had no choice but to be patient and wait for others to express their own thoughts ideas. We had to process those thoughts and then write our own.
We had to acknowledge and respect the people around us and what they had to say.
That doesn't happen often enough in vocal discussions. Maybe we should have more silent ones.
In what other ways might a silent discussion be beneficial? Who is Jesus to you? Do you ever have questions or thoughts about him that you don't feel safe or comfortable expressing?