by Darnysha Nard, Staff Writer

One week.

That is how long that I was without voice. I was silent (mostly).

That is how long I jealously listened to other people talk above a whisper and laugh boisterously as I coughed violently and watched longingly from the other side of the room.

I have lost my voice before, but this time it was different. This time it affected me on a personal level. Usually I get a cold once a year, around September, and the result is sniffles, a cute little cough and losing my voice for a day. For some reason, I have already hit my sickness quota of one. I got my annual cold and it hit me like no sickness had ever hit me before. I thought it was strep, tuberculosis or the early formative stages of a goiter. It was the end times. My cough was growing worse and worse with each hour and my energy was waning. But I was resilient. I went to class and told myself that I was a strong, independent Black woman who would not be stopped by a cold – but I was wrong. I was stopped and silenced.

The thought of not having my voice was devastating. Once I entered my third day of silence, I locked myself in my room and mourned my vital asset of expression. I cried for hours. Depression is a real illness, so, I am not going to say that I was depressed but I hit a low that shook me to my core. I felt robbed. I also felt that there was no reason to go out into the world if no one would listen. I realized that I missed hearing myself talk. I literally missed the sound of my own voice. I missed singing along off-key with my best friend Adele, I missed talking myself down from emotionally heightened situations, but most of all I missed being heard.

This year I have learned the importance of my voice. I have learned that it is important to speak up for others when they have been silenced, and to speak for myself when I have been dealt with unjustly. I have always had a voice, but I never used it for the right reasons. I always have a witty comeback and I love a good intelligent debate among friends. These are not bad things, but if I only use my voice where I am comfortable, am I really expressing the Gospel? God does not always call us to be comfortable, in fact, I have experienced the most growth where I am least comfortable. So, having a week of silence after having these realizations was unbearable. I felt that I had finally learned and embraced the first step of my calling and to be silenced in that pivotal moment seemed unfair. I mourned my voice, my calling and who I thought God was. But it was through this muted mourning that I got a glimpse of what it was like to be silenced. I not only cherished the voice I hoped to soon regain, I cherished receiving the task to speak. Sharing personal testimonies and opinions is important for a community to grow. There is so much that can be gained if we silence ourselves every once in a while – we can search introspectively and listen fully to others as they speak. By providing platforms for those who are typically quieted by society, we are allowing spaces for the Gospel to spread and embrace through the example of love.

Try it.

One week. What have you got to lose?