The giving of a voice: Bene's story is his to tell, and someday he will tell it all which is beautiful. Until then, I wanted to share a small sliver of Bene's story during this perfect time of year to give thanks.
Bene stopped talking in public at three years of age after he witnessed his Uncle's murder in Goma, DRC. Since then Bene has struggled to move through school and has dealt with many instances of bullying (from both teachers and peers) because of his select mutism. I met with Bene, his mother, the school director and the Director of the New Hope Center while in Goma this past October. With my background in Early Childhood Education I came equipped with ways to hopefully empower Bene, his Mom and Teachers. We had a short thirty minutes together and I wished I could do more as Bene walked away. He did not speak during our time together. It was silly to think a short thirty minutes could open the lock he put on his voice to protect himself. That takes lots of time and trust. I returned home to the states with Bene in my dreams. I constantly wondered what I could have done to better equip him and make him feel safe enough to unlock the proverbial door to his voice.
I recently received an email from the Founders of the New Hope Center and it read that Bene is now speaking to his peers in school. HE. IS. TALKING. This precious child who chose to suppress his voice to guard his existence has chosen to speak. That is beautiful. It's SO, SO beautiful. Bene believes he's in a safe enough space to use his voice. He can share his words - brilliant ones with those around him and his voice will grow stronger. During this time of thanksgiving, I hope you find inspiration in Bene's story. Yes, we all have infinite ways to give thanks. Perhaps we peel back the layers and simply settle on giving thanks for our voice - that not only are you strong enough to use, but you have the freedom to use it in a way that makes this world a more beautiful place.
We go into the rest of this week with great thanks for our voices and for Bene's bravery and strength and the future where he tells his story. The whole one. See Beautiful.
Photo by Bobby Neptune.