All the children were born with a talent, some you noticed right away. The hungry newborn that would start to lift off their bassinet in the hospital. The first laugh that made the plants suddenly start swaying as if there were a wind blowing through the room. Others it took much longer to see, the hungry toddler who pointed at the cookie and it floated towards him on unseen hands, or the child on the first day of school who was nervous and a whole classroom of kids flocked around in a circle to comfort and ease the anxiety.
Maya’s father watched her as she grew but never saw any talent while she was a baby. She cried when she was hungry, she laughed when you played with her, but nothing unexpected ever seemed to happen.
Maya was an exceptionally quiet little girl. When she spoke her first word, Daa, her father was just as happy that she said his name first as he was relieved that she was speaking, he had started to get worried that she was unable to speak. That something might be wrong with her that no doctor had noticed.
So when Daa came out of her mouth he paused the game he was playing and listened for a moment. Apparently that was all she had to say because she went back to arranging the pillows she had collected off the couch into a pile and her father went back to playing his game.
As time went on Maya’s father got into the habit of listening whenever Maya spoke. She was quiet and spoke so infrequently that he always stopped what he was doing and focused on Maya’s face when she had something to say. Usually it was a question, her little mind was growing fast and she a great curiosity. Her father always tried to answer her questions thoughtfully. He was quite proud at what a good father he had turned out to be. No one who knew him would have expected it.
Theirs was a quiet house with just the two of them. Maya’s father was always busy online, he worked as a game designer and used his down time to play other games. Maya learned early on to entertain herself. She had her own games of course and spent a lot of her days playing with her virtual friends. As the time came for Maya to start school she started asking her father questions. What would school be like? Would the other children like her? What would happen to her home while she was gone? Mayas father spent less time on playing games during this lead up to school. He focused his attention on Maya and her questions. Listening carefully and answering her questions and concerns.
On the first day of school Maya’s teacher was waiting at the door of the classroom. She was being questioned and talked to and tugged on from every direction, usually by the parents not the children. Maya waited with her father for her turn to be introduced and for the teacher to tell them where to go stand. Maya’s father introduced himself to the teacher and she started to point towards an empty table by the window. Maya asked if her father would be staying with her and the teacher stopped for a moment and looked at Maya’s eyes. She leaned down and explained to Maya that her father could stay for a few minutes but then it would be time for Maya to make new friends and start her day of learning and playing. Maya nodded her head solemnly and started walking to the table the teacher had indicated.
As Maya walked away the teacher gave herself a little shake and stood up. Looking into Mayas eyes had been oddly intense. She had found herself focusing only on Maya instead of the multi-tasking she was so used to. All the sounds in the room had quieted for just a moment. Suddenly everything was back to what it had been, every child talking at the same time and every parent trying their hardest to reassure them.
Maya and her father quickly settled into the schedule. In the mornings they would have breakfast together and plan the day, making sure they both knew what to expect from school and work. After the first day of school Maya began taking the bus for the short trip to school and back. The bus driver always asked Maya how she was this beautiful morning and listened to Maya’s answer which usually involved the words wonderful, excited or very fine and a quick description of something she was looking forward to at school that day.
When Maya got home from school she let herself into the apartment using her door code, 9235 but never tell anyone, and found the snack that she and her father had left out in the morning. She unpacked her backpack at the kitchen table and carefully set out her returned and graded papers and her homework before she ate her snack.
Usually by the time she finished her snack Maya’s father would shut down his work computer and get his own snack from the kitchen to bring to the table. Then he and Maya sat and discussed the day, what was good what was bad and what needed to be taken care of for the next day.
Maya’s father would normally have worked long into the evening but once Maya started school she was so full of stories that he gave her his full attention. It was impossible to work once Maya was home, she was just too captivating.
It was Maya’s teacher who first understood what was happening. She called Maya’s father in for a conference and after sending Maya to the back of the room to play so she could concentrate on the conversation with Maya’s father the teacher explained what she had witnessed time and time again. When Maya spoke her words compelled you to pay attention. Every child and adult to whom Maya spoke stopped what they were doing and looked in her eyes while she was speaking. It wasn’t that she had any influence with her words, it was just that the person she was speaking to gave her their full focus. That was Maya’s gift.
As gifts go Maya’s were pretty unimpressive. She didn’t float through the air or cause rain to fall on dry grass. Maya’s father registered her gift with social services as the law required and had an interview with Maya and the social worker but there were no exceptional recommendations or special schools for Maya. Life just went on as normal.
Maya grew, as children do, and went all through the average school system. She got good grades, not because she was extra intelligent but because when she didn’t understand something and asked for help, her teachers listened and helped her. Maya had friends and acquaintances and was well liked. She didn’t need to be outrageous to get attention, she only needed to be herself. She was still naturally a quiet and thoughtful person and never took advantage of her talent. She spoke with honesty and love most of the time and those few exceptions when something bothered her or she started to become angry were quickly turned into lessons for everyone because she would speak and the person she was angry at would look into her eye and focus and really hear the words Maya was saying. They didn’t listen only superficially while organizing their own rebuke or interrupt Maya’s words. The listened.
Maya’s relationship with her father remained very close and matured as she did. When she was in her twenties her father met a woman that was special to him. She was kind and thoughtful and had a laugh that made a sound like glass tinkling and made any birds within range sing. Maya’s father had also grown and matured through the years and had become so accustomed to focusing on Maya when she spoke that he naturally did it with his new friend. He made her feel respected, and loved.
By this time Maya had moved into her own small apartment so it seemed natural that Maya’s father would ask his new partner to move in. They created a wonderful life together.
Maya had a job as proof-reader at a magazine. Her friends thought it was funny that the girl who was always listened to had a job that rarely called for her to speak but it suited Maya. She enjoyed reading and learning all of the ways that people thought and imagined. Her favorite was the poetry. She enjoyed the pictures that were created in her mind as she read the poems of people who wrote with passion and vision.
Maya would on occasion spend an evening at a coffee house near her apartment with friends. They would all meet and snack on pastries while drinking rich creamy coffee drinks. On Tuesdays the coffee house featured an open mic on a small stage and people would stand and sing their songs or read their poems. One day Maya surprised her friends by standing up and walking to the microphone. She had read a poem the week before that had just been published today and wanted to share it.
The poem spoke of peace and equality. Of a world where children were protected and cared for, and the old cherished. Of course the audience in the coffee house stopped their talking and eating and drinking and listened with all of their focus while Maya spoke, they didn’t have a choice.
When Maya finished she saw a man with a gentle smile staring at her with tears in his eyes. Before Maya had even made it back to her friends he approached her and explained that it was his poem. He had been afraid that no one would understand his words as he meant them. Hearing Maya read the poem gave him joy and confidence. Seeing the reaction of the other patrons in the coffee shop made him feel a strength of will that he didn’t know he possessed and he knew now that he would continue writing.
As Maya aged into her fifties her life was fulfilling and just thinking about it enveloped her in a feeling of love and joy. Her children were kind and caring and had learned in early childhood how to really listen because of Maya’s talent. They naturally carried this habit outside of their home and made wonderful friendships because they cared about what their friends were saying and always gave them full attention when they were speaking.
Maya quit working and took many years to travel around the world. She saw mountains and desserts and tropical rain forests and everywhere she went she made friends. After all of these years she had become a very good listener. It was natural really, she learned from watching other people listen to her words at a young age and thought this was normal.
When teenagers danced on a beach and wanted to sell their art to Maya she would spend hours discussing their thoughts and visions for their work. Why they used that color or why this word was perfect in that sentence. The young people all flourished after talking to Maya. They gained confidence in themselves and no longer had to do outrageous things to try and make people look at their art simply because when Maya spoke to them she gave them respect and admiration and they heard her words and knew they were meant sincerely.
When Maya’s father died she came home for the funeral and basked in the love of her family. Her fathers partner and their son opened their home to Maya, which of course had been her home. Maya’s brother had been raised by two parents who praised him and listened to him because the father had learned from raising Maya and shown the mother by example.
Maya’s brother was in his thirties when he became a politician. He surrounded himself with people who had a respect for all life and listened to the problems and concerns of others. As a child Maya’s brother had been taught that he was important, that what he said and through mattered so he in turn believed this of everyone and was a good person.
When Maya died after spending many years living a wonderful life there were many tears but somehow no one was really sad. Coming together at the cemetery where Maya was buried to say their goodbyes on a beautiful sunny summer day they spent hours gathered together telling stories of their lives and how having met Maya had made them better, more complete people.
When Maya’s youngest granddaughter started to speak the group grew quiet and focused on her in a familiar way. She looked very much like Maya as a teenager but she was not like Maya. She was bubbly and enthusiastic and looking forward to ways she would change the world. She did not have Maya’s talent but because she looked so much like Maya everyone focused on her words as they were used to doing when Maya spoke.
She spoke of how Maya loved each and every one of them for different reasons. For their compassion, for their sense of humor, for their intelligence. Many of Maya’s friends had wanted to create a memorial to Maya, a way to show their gratitude for her support, her honesty and kindness and to make sure that Maya’s was remembered.
Maya’s granddaughter with a very un-Maya_like flourish stepped aside and showed them the art that had been created.
A large rectangle filled on all sides with pictures, and paintings and poems. Photographs of children laughing, authors typing. All of the people who had listened to Maya when she told them how special they were and how they, with their talents could and would change the world. There was no name or dates memorializing Maya’s time alive, instead, at the stop of the stone were the words that explained how quiet gentle Maya was able to accomplish so much in her quiet gentle life, “Because I was Heard”.