The Small Voice

I used to ignore it, but the older I get, the more I listen to it.

While I had heard it before, I remember this particular event so vividly, I’ll speak of it here as if it were the first time.

Park Forest, Ill, 1953 – building a new 500-home subdivision: I was the chief engineer and surveyor for an excavating company which dug out the pattern of  streets and building sites for this new city. I’d been on the job several months and had made many friends in the area. I made a few enemies too.

There was this one guy in our company I definitely did not like, and it was clear nothing could change that. He was slimy, lying, and vicious, I could never trust him with anything, and he knew it. We stayed away from each other as much as possible, but I’d hear little things he had said about me that were not true, and were always quite degrading.

One day I was out in the middle of a large grassy field, driving stakes in the ground to guide the bulldozers in removing a hill that stood in the way of a proposed road. The grass was quite high, and I was partially hidden as I crouched down, working near the ground.

As I pounded away on the wooden marker stakes, I heard a bulldozer getting close to me. I paid little attention because the noise was some distance away and behind me. Surely the driver was looking where he was going so I don’t have to react by jumping up and looking around like a fool.

But a small voice, barely audible said: “Don’t be stupid, Bob, check it out. Don’t take any chances with bulldozers.”

I ignored it.

The dozer noise got closer. The tiny message repeated. The noise got louder — almost on top of me. I swung around and there was a huge ten-foot-wide dozer blade a few  feet  above my head and traveling fast directly over me. I dropped everything, and jumped out of the way as the machine crushed the ground and the stakes I had been working with.

It was my “enemy.”

As I watched him drive on past, he kept his head looking the other way as if he never saw me.

Or did he? I thought about this. I thought about the fact that you could easily kill a fellow worker and never claim responsibility. I hadn’t been standing up to be easily seen, and he could claim he never saw me because of that. Yet his cab was eight feet higher than where I was and he certainly could have seen further than I.

I was damn angry but also frightened. I could be killed and it all blamed on me. I decided to confront him.

In his usual slimy manner, he claimed he never saw me, and besides that, what was I doing hiding in the grass where he was working! “Anybody as stupid as that deserves to get run over!”

I sensed the futility of escalating the matter, so let it go.

But I never forgot my unexpected  re-discovery of that small voice. I then realized it had always been there, I just seemed to be becoming more aware of it.

How do I tell the difference between this voice and all the other voices in me? I think it may be because of its softness, compared to the other loud voices of pride and greed and thinly-based dead-certainty. This voice has to be listened for, since it is small and quiet and barely detectable.

What is it? Is it God? Is it my own inner self? Is it a guardian angel? Is it long-gone friends and relatives trying to protect and guide me – or all of these? I won’t attempt to figure it out. All I know is that it has saved my life on several occasions and I will continue to listen for it and encourage it.  Maybe if I make it feel welcome, it will speak more often.

I could tell you more about this small voice, if you’re interested.

By the way – have you heard it?

Robert Rock has lived in Redding since 2001. He is an author/writer and retired environmental engineer.

Robert Rock moved to Redding from Santa Rosa in 2000, soon found the local Writers Forum, and became its President for four years. Was a former Technical Writer for McDonnell Aircraft Corp., published environmental engineering articles as a professional engineer, public interest articles for newspapers and periodicals, and a book of short stories which covers the 1920s to 2001, including WW II. Is presently secretary of the local Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), and assists students at the Good News Rescue Mission in earning their GEDs.
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8 Responses

  1. I always regret not listening to that voice!

  2. Avatar Cheri says:

    Great writing, thank you! I too have been learning to listen to that voice more and more, always kind, always protective, always caring and always loving.

  3. Oh yes, that small voice speaks to me regularly. I haven’t come close to being run over by a bulldozer, not yet at least, but I’ve never regretted heeding the silent advice. Trouble is, I often ignore the voice and later slap my forehead and say, “I KNEW it, why didn’t I listen?” And like you, I'm learning to pay closer attention.

  4. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    Robert, a well told but harrowing story. You would love the book "How We Decide" that deals with situations similar to yours. Our brain, and I've never read this but believe it to be true, has, as its main job our survival. Our senses are continually picking up all kinds of information on a sub-conscious level. The book describes incedences in which that "voice" saved lives. Here is the info. After reading this book I've decided to trust that "voice" even though I have no rational explanation for my feeling about someone or some situation.

  5. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:


  6. Avatar Canda says:

    I enjoyed your article, Robert. It's the times in my life when I ignored that voice that I most regret. I call it that gut feeling, or inner knowing. It's always there with the right answer for me if I listen to it, and as you, I'm not ignoring it like I did in my younger years. Joanne's book sounds fascinating. Might have to check that one out. Thanks for the enjoyable read.

  7. Avatar KarenC says:

    Robert, I have listened to my voice all my life and it has never failed me. I never really knew what it was, maybe my guardian angel?

    When I worked for the Redding Police Department, we often spoke about the voice, the inner knowledge most of us seemed to have. I was directed to read "The Gift of Fear", Survival signals that protect us from violence, by Gavin De Becker. It explains it all, and is a wonderful book with real life stories.

    Yes, you should always listen to it, it comes from a higher power and we are born with it. Some of us have chosen not to listen, and that is when trouble hits. As for me, it has kept me out of trouble for many years.

  8. Avatar Sally says:

    I have never thought it as an inner thought, but called it a hunch, and it is usually correct. But a HUGE example of mammals, not humans, knowing how to save their own life when we don't see the immediate danger, has been some of the huge tsunamis that have occured in recent years, and the animals were heading for higher ground before we had an inkling of the danger.