Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Sound of Silence

I grew up in an old hip-roofed stone farmhouse that my father had retrofitted on the inside with innovations like wood paneling in the living room. Evidently one day during this process the drill slipped, because one of the panels sported a little, perfectly round hole in the middle, just low enough for a small child to insert things into. I remember, one day, scribbling out messages on tiny pieces of paper, then rolling up the papers into scrolls and pushing them into the hole. I'm not sure why, or who I thought would find them and respond. But it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I thought about that the other day, after sending an e-mail to the lay ministry program informing them that I have a work conflict with our next scheduled retreat and won't be able to attend, and asking if I could nonetheless receive copies of any written materials given out at that retreat. Because, like the hole in the wall of my childhood home, my communications with this program seem to wind up in the same dark limbo of non-response. Not even a form-letter "Thank you for your input."

Yesterday I checked my e-mail. Wow! Not one, but two messages from the program. Maybe I was wrong, I thought. Maybe I'd get an actual personal e-mail from a Power That Be. I eagerly opened the letters.

They were group e-mails informing our class of another upcoming event; one a duplicate, sent by mistake.


P.S. an after-thought said...

This resonates with me. Very deeply, as I'll explain. In the case of a program, an office, there could be "circumstances," such as over work, vacation, too many emails, etc. to have one email ignored, or ignored for a period of time. Repeated ignoring equals whatever the oppositie of "Christian Hospitality" is. It could warrant a "heads-up" to somebody's boss.

To the issue to being ignored in general: This is something that probably cuts me as deeply as anything. I'd rather have someone say something heartfelt and harsh than to be ignored.

I remember being in a church council meeting one time when I offered a suggestion. There was no response. No body language. No noise. I wondered if I had accidently turned the volume to OFF on my mouth.

MY DH used to do the non-response thing when we were having "discussions." I could have screamed, which wouldn't have solved the problem, because then it would be MY problem. He, fortunately, did it at a marital counseling session and the therapist saw it and said how that would drive him crazy if he were the spouse. Therapist called it a form of verbal abuse. I tell you, that rocked DH's boat! It got the job done. There was a change for the better. And, best of all, I was validated, my feelings were acknowledged by the therapist, I wasn't crazy.

So you are not crazy to want, expect, a response. But the questions remain: Can they not deal with your topics, your feelings? Or is their a problem with their office proceedures and it isn't personal at all?

Cory said...

Good luck getting any news!

As for me, I just sent off my application to both the seminary and the residence this past week... with any luck, I'll even hear from them before September!

LutheranChik said...

No, it's not personal; I've heard frustration by others in the program. And our previous director was very chatty and community-building via e-mail, so the new, how shall I say, paucity in communication has been a major change for us all.

Tom in Ontario said...

Maybe you, and the others who have noticed the lack of communication, should just nag about this and pester the new director until more and better communication comes about.

LutheranChik said...

I've tried to do that through my post-retreat evaluations, and my fellow students and I have mentioned it to my pastor.

In their defense -- the current co-directors have full-time "day jobs" in addition to this one, whereas our previous director had more time to devote to the job.

juniper68 said...

regardless of reasons, here's a big URGH on your behalf....

Anonymous said...

When my son was about 7, he got the idea that he would write a message, put it in a bottle, through it into Long Island Sound, and wait for someone in "China" to call him (our phone number was on the message).

Since I've been a writer all my life, I had become accustomed to being ignored, and I warned him that many things could happen to that bottle and the chances were that even if it did end up in "China," it would be years from now, and we might not even have that phone number anymore.

Two weeks later, the phone rang. It was for him. It was a man in Oyster Bay (across the Sound) who had found his bottle.

My son is 32 now. When he writes or calls or speaks -- or prays -- he assumes he will get a response. When he doesn't, he just says, "Well, China is a long way off."

Wendy said...

PS: I didn't mean for that to be anonymous. Nothing mysterious here. Just hit the wrong button.

Wendy said...

And I forgot what I still consider one of the most dramatic non-responses in my lifetime:

When I was in my 20s (I'm not 63), I went to a church in Pasadena, California (Lake Avenue Congregational) and filled out the pew card. I checked "Please pray for me" and "Please contact me" ... gave my information, and then wrote something to the effect that I was having a very difficult time and was alone.

I dropped the card in the collection basket.

And never heard a word.

It's like the old joke about calling the suicide hot line and being placed on hold.