To Hear A Voice

Wendy Hodge


Margaret lives in London. She walks a few blocks every day … every single day … just to hear a voice. She walks to the subway station in her neighborhood and perches on the edge of a bench on the platform waiting for her husband’s words to fill the air. His name is Oswald and he passed away several years ago. He recorded the message that, for more than 50 years, looped countless times a day over the PA system in all London metro subway stations – “Mind the gap.”

I was in London myself, more than once, and heard that voice say those words. It’s one of the memories that stuck with me over the decades. It wasn’t so much the tone of his voice, although it is a pleasant voice, soothing and calm. It wasn’t the accent, even though a British accent has always made my knees weak. It’s the words themselves. “Mind the gap.”

Intended to be a warning to passengers to pay attention to the space between the train and the platform, it also has such a deeper meaning. Mind the spaces. Pay attention to the distance between the here and there.

When I was first in London, I was 17 years old. My dreams were as big as that city itself. I had ambition and plans and goals. The future was flung out in front of me like an endless road of possibilities. What I didn’t have was an education beyond high school or an experience beyond my small southern town. London was the first taste of what the world held, and I fell in love with all the places and things I had yet to see.

More than three decades later, my life is not what I had planned. I am not a doctor. I have not traveled the globe. I do not possess great wealth.

But …

Oh, how glorious my life is today. While it’s not perfect, because no human life is ever perfect, I truly could not ask for a more contented and comfortable day to day. I am with the person I wish I’d known my whole life. We live in a house with a wall of windows that lets in the afternoon light and affords us a view of the prettiest yard in town. Our garden is bursting with color, and the hummingbirds, butterflies and bumble bees enjoy it almost as much as we do.

Every morning we stroll through the blooms, marveling at what beauty is ours to take care of. The hummingbird feeders are the local hot spot for dozens of hummers. The lawn is lush and thriving. The trees are full and stretch toward the sky, providing shade and blossoms.

The house we live in has air that is cool when we come in from the blazing sun. The kitchen is a favorite spot for us. This is where we talk and laugh and cook and gaze out at the view. We feast on BLT’s with fresh tomatoes and bacon cooked to perfection. Every day, when I come home from work, Tim has a dinner made with skill and served with love. And I make a mean banana pudding, if I do say so myself.

From our spot on the couch, we watch our neighbors stroll by, the flowers showing off in the sun and occasionally the rain soaking the ground. With our feet propped up and our bellies full, we binge-watch our favorite shows and movies. We talk about the day just ending and the next day to come.

And we laugh … always, we laugh.

Looking back, it is the gap that got me here. Those years between that first trip to Europe and today. They were busy and happy and disappointing and hard work. They, often, were heartbreaking. People disappointed me. I disappointed myself. But without those gap days, I would not be living in these golden ones.

The gap days are the days of growing up, of becoming who you truly are, of learning how to be someone to love. They are the days you discover that the smell of cinnamon toast in the morning and a baby’s neck right after bath time are just about perfect. They are the days your heart expands to let in people you love more than yourself. They are the nights you learn what worry truly is and how slowly the minutes can tick by. They are the years of study, when the world opens itself to show you how small you really are. It is the gap that becomes a bridge from yesterday to today.

Mind the gap.

Margaret walks every day to the subway station near her home to hear a voice. She perches on a bench on the subway platform and waits. After 50 years of Oswald’s words echoing through dozens of London stations, it was replaced by a recording. But because humans have such a capacity for compassion, the authorities at the subway station near Margaret’s home did not switch to a recorded voice. They continued to play Oswald’s recording. They continue to do so to this very day.

And so Margaret walks every day and waits and hears the voice she loves telling her to “Mind the gap.” That precious voice. That priceless gap.

Mind the gap, for the gap is your life.


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