Hannah’s Listening Lesson

By Linda Porter Carlyle

Hannah Maria Estevez tugged at her mother’s sleeve. “What are those ladies doing?” she whispered.

Mama looked up from the can label she was reading to see two women gesturing excitedly with their hands farther down the aisle. “They are talking to each other in sign language,” she explained. “The women must be deaf.”

Hannah watched in fascination. She could hardly believe that people could talk to each other without speaking. The women’s hands made beautiful motions in the air. Hannah wished she could understand what they were saying to each other.

Hannah followed Mama as she pushed the grocery cart along. But she kept her eyes on the women’s interesting conversation until Mama turned the corner into the next aisle. Hannah tugged her arm again. “Those ladies are listening with their eyes!” she exclaimed.

Mama stopped pushing the cart. “I guess that’s true!” she said. “They can’t listen with their ears, so they listen with their eyes.”

“They use their hands instead of their mouths, and their eyes instead of their ears!” Hannah marveled, absorbed in the new thought. “I wish I could do that!”

“Well, you could learn,” Mama said, reaching for a bottle of olive oil. “You already speak two languages—Spanish and English. You could learn sign language if you wanted to.”

Hannah’s eyes glowed as she thought about herself talking with dancing hands. If she learned to talk with her hands, she could teach Baby Paulo to do it too. And then they could have conversations that nobody else would understand! Unless the other person also spoke sign language of course. That would be fun!

Hannah helped Mama pack the groceries into big brown paper bags after the grocery clerk slid each item across his magic little window that told how much everything cost. She trailed behind Mama across the parking lot. “Mama, if you didn’t want to listen to someone who was talking in sign language, you would only have to close your eyes!” she said.

Mama laughed. “That’s right!” She unlocked the back car door and began to unload the groceries onto the car seat.

“And if I were talking to you in sign language, you couldn’t hear me if you were turned around like that,” Hannah went on.

“True,” Mama answered over her shoulder.

“Weird,” Hannah said. She decided she liked the fact that people could hear her words even if their backs were turned. Even in the dark.

Mama pulled her head out of the car and faced Hannah. “If someone is talking to you, no matter what language he’s speaking, you have to pay attention and listen, or you won’t hear what he’s saying.”

“Like Pastor Chuck said,” Hannah put in. “Pastor Chuck said God speaks to everybody all the time, but some people don’t pay attention. I guess if God were speaking in sign language, those people would have their eyes shut!” She giggled.

Mama laughed. “How do you think God speaks to people?” she asked as she and Hannah climbed into the car and buckled up.

“In the Bible,” Hannah answered.

“Do you think a person could read the Bible and not hear God speak?” Mama asked. She turned on the motor.

“I don’t know,” Hannah answered slowly. “Maybe.”

“How else does God speak to people?” Mama asked.

Hannah thought. “In nature,” she said.

“Could a person look at nature and not hear God speaking to them?” Mama asked. She backed the car out of its parking space and headed across the lot.

Hannah nodded. “Yes, because people who believe in evolution are looking at nature, but they don’t see that God created everything.”

“Good answer!” Mama exclaimed.

Hannah smiled with pleasure.

“I guess if a person is listening for God, he needs to listen with more than just his ears or his eyes,” Mama said.

Hannah looked puzzled. “What else can you listen with?” she asked.

Mama was quiet, watching the traffic so she could pull safely out into the street.

“You have to listen for God with something besides your ears or your eyes!” Hannah exclaimed suddenly. “Because, otherwise, God couldn’t speak to people who are blind or deaf!”

Mama smiled at her but didn’t say anything.

Hannah mulled it over. How did people hear God? Not necessarily with their ears. Not necessarily with their eyes. What was left? She stared out the car window.

Mama drove past the fish store.

Hannah wished they had time to stop, and go inside, and look around, and buy a fish. A Japanese fighting fish! She looked at the fancy black-and-white tuxedos lined up in the display windows of the next shop they passed. She gazed at the beautiful lacy wedding dress in the next window. The mannequin wearing the dress stood in front of a huge heart made of pink paper roses.

“I know!” she shouted. “You have to listen to God with your heart! You can listen with your heart even if you can’t see or hear!”

The light at the corner turned red, and Mama stepped on the brakes. “That’s exactly it!” she answered, turning to Hannah. “Sometimes you may close your eyes so you don’t have to look at something. Sometimes you may plug your ears so you don’t have to hear something. But I hope you never close your heart. I hope you will always listen for God’s voice.”

Hannah smiled at Mama. “I will,” she promised.

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