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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

On My Mind: The Still, Small Place

Tommy Tomlinson

We had a little Palm Sunday service in our living room, just the three of us.

We all got out Bibles. Alix’s mom read the passage from Matthew, chapter 9, where Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey as his followers lay palm branches on his path.

And then, for the next 20 minutes or so, we drifted into silence.

Alix’s mom and dad were practicing Quakers. When Alix’s dad was alive, sometimes we’d go with them to their meeting house outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. Other times we’d meet a smaller group at someone’s house. Either way, after a little small talk, everyone would take their seats. There was no service as such – the Quakers who worship this way call it an unprogrammed meeting. If someone is moved to speak, they’re welcome. But most of the time, no one talks. The point is to listen for the still, small voice of God.

Most of us don’t like it when it’s too quiet. I’ve worked in newsrooms so long that I need a little bit of white noise to keep me focused. I like the A/C or the heater or a fan running at night. Otherwise, I hear every creak of the house.

And lately I’ve wanted even less quiet, because if it’s too quiet then I really start thinking about what this virus is doing to us, what it has already done to thousands, and how it is not anywhere near done yet. That’s the kind of quiet that has you staring at the ceiling at three in the morning.

But somehow the Quaker silence is different, if you let it be different. It’s like meditation. You might have all those same scary thoughts. But if you sit there long enough, and breathe deep enough, you can feel them start to slide over the edge and out of sight. Sometimes what’s left is a blissful emptiness. Sometimes it’s a deeper peace.

I don’t always get to that peaceful place. But Sunday morning, in those last few minutes, I did.

For a brief moment I wasn’t thinking about the virus or the bills we owe or when we’ll see our friends again. I was thinking about nothing. And sometimes, these days especially, nothing is just what we need.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column normally runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary, On My Mind, which airs every Monday.