The Silent Speaker This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Volunteering in Fayette County, West Virginia over the summer was inspirational. I traveled there with the Appalachia Service Project to repair the homes of underprivileged families. My second trip, this one was especially uplifting. Our group of 83 was split into teams of six and mine worked on a roof for Floyd. I was excited because I had never been up on a roof.

Before we left for the worksite, my team leader warned us that since Floyd had throat cancer and had had his voice box removed, he could only speak through an electric vocalizer. When we arrived, Floyd was on his front porch in one of his rocking chairs. As he stood to greet us, I saw a tube protruding from his throat. This took me by surprise and I tried not to stare. He held up a device that looked like a candy dispenser to his throat and pressed a button that made a buzzing sound and said “Hello” in a robotic voice.

The first work day was called “Mosey Monday” because we all sat on his porch and talked. Well, I did not talk much, but Floyd did. He was not shy about his illness and wanted us to be comfortable too. To make us feel better, he whipped the tube out of his throat and showed it to us. I was startled at first, but then saw that there was nothing disturbing about it. Once I was more comfortable, I asked about his family and what he used to do. He explained he had been a roofing contractor, and at that moment I knew we had to do a spectacular job on his roof or we’d all be in trouble.

Floyd never let his health interfere with his time with us. In addition to surviving throat cancer, he had diabetes, which limited his mobility. To make up for it, Floyd had us sit down so he could show us photo album after photo album. I began to feel like I knew his whole family as well as I did my own. Floyd was really kind and brought us sodas and snacks from his kitchen so we had something other than our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. He would encourage me ten times a day, saying, “You’re one strong worker,” which made me feel good since I was the only girl up on the roof.

Floyd’s roof was hard, hot work. Even though the house was just one story, looking over the edge made my stomach lurch. Even if it were almost 100 degrees up there, and even if we had some unwanted visitors like bats or bees, Floyd’s positive attitude and gratitude kept our spirits up and motivated us to do as much as we could. On our last day we did not have much desire to work because we wanted to spend the time with Floyd. He inspired me to be happy and lighthearted no matter what obstacles I may face in life.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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