Sometimes you can tell a lot about a person simply by listening to their voice. Just as eyes are “windows to the soul,” voices can be impressions of the heart.
Visiting a friend in the hospital not long ago, I needed to go to the tenth floor. Pushing a square glowing button of golden orange with an arrow pointing “UP,” I waited for the elevator. Shiny doors of silver opened, disappearing into wall spaces on either side allowing me to step in. Two men huddled near a panel of buttons to the left, chatting like old friends.
Trying to appear occupied, I looked down at a dotted steel floor where I noticed scuff marks of white on navy blue boots. In my hands, I held a small potted plant. Waxy green leaves rolled unconsciously between my thumb and forefinger.
The two men seemed to have reconnected after a chance encounter elsewhere in the hospital. A family lounge? The cafeteria? “I still can’t believe it’s you,” one of them said! “Yeah, it’s been a long time. Man, its great running into each other,” responded the other, with a pat on the back!
As the elevator lifted up, pitches and tones of the men’s voices took twists and turns within our 5X7 generic space. Pauses, sigh, sadness and laughter suggested important changes had taken place for each of them.
One of the men had a lilting sound to his voice. Notes of anticipation that rose higher with each passing floor. The other sounded resigned yet hopeful. His voice disguised suffering, I guessed.
Not much time left. The elevator wall panel told me so. Glowing buttons highlighted floor numbers soon-to-be. They hinted farewells were about to take place.
Nervous laughter trickled among the small of our spot. An air of tension suddenly weighed heavily as we neared the first floor to open. When doors slid wide a large sign on the back wall read, “Maternity.” The first man out brushed back his hair nervously to say, “You take care of yourself.” “Sure will! Tell your wife, congratulations,” the other man called out.
It was only then that I truly looked at the other man who stood in the corner. He pushed a lit button with one hand while gripping an IV pole with the other. Dressed in an oversized hospital gown with very loose jeans, he glanced at me with a slight smile. Shiny doors closed, silently. Seconds later, when they opened, I read a different sign. “Oncology.”
After the man stepped out he turned, whispering familiar words to me. “Take care of yourself.” His voice gave me the impression of kindness, sincerity and gentleness. In time and space of small, my heart had grown large. He left me feeling like I had known him for most of my years.