June 1, 2010


Did you hear that?”

He grabbed my arm so tightly that I was forced to stop and look at him inquisitively.

Hear what?”

The laughter. The happy children,” he answered, face aglow.

I had to admit that no, I hadn’t heard the laughter, and that I was skeptical that there would be any children and this small, deserted shopping mall at 11am on a Wednesday morning.

Henry just smiled.

He had just walked out of the hearing aid clinic when I first met him. My grandmother was inside for her appointment, and I was sitting in the waiting room, oblivious to my surroundings, when Henry grabbed my arm.

I later learned that Henry, now in his late 70s, had been having issues with his hearing since his wife passed away about a decade ago. Last year, he decided to seek medical attention for the problem. Today was his first day with his new hearing aid, and he was jubilant.

Henry sat down next to me, and continued to hold my arm as he closed his eyes and listened. Partly because I wanted to know what he was talking about, and partly because he looked so peaceful, I decided to follow his lead.

I closed my eyes, and listened.

Seconds later, faintly, off in the distance, I heard it: the muffled laughter of playful children.

Henry must have noticed the unconscious smile forming on my face:

Hear that? That’s the sound of happiness.”

I nodded, eyes still closed. He went on:

It’s everywhere. Sometimes all you need to do is listen.”