"I came upon a doctor who appeared in quite poor health. I said, ‘I am terribly sorry, but there is nothing I can do for you that you can’t do for yourself.’"
Sometimes, after pouring my thoughts out to someone, their response has been, “I care about you, I want to help, but I’m sorry, I just don’t know what else I can do.”
If you have experienced this as I have, you know it can be very frustrating. But not because it is less than you hoped for; usually, you’re not asking them to “fix” you in the first place. We don’t always need our loved ones to do anything; sometimes we just need someone to listen, hold our hand, and be there along the way.
“He said, ‘Oh, yes, you can. Just hold my hand. I think that would help.’”
When we are on the other side of the table, lending our ear, we tend to underestimate the power of inaction, of simply sitting and listening to what the other is saying rather than focusing on solving the problem.
In my own life, coming to the realization that it is OK to not be able to do everything for a loved one was hard, but a huge relief for me. Not being able to actively change another’s life for them does not mean I am useless in my role of simply being there.
“So I sat with him a while, and then I asked him how he felt. He said, ‘I think I’m cured. No, in fact, I’m sure. Thank you, Stranger, for your therapeutic smile.’”
Sometimes we just need someone to stand by us, to allow us to get better, to believe in us and in the hope that we can do this. We need support and encouragement through our own journey. I hold to the idea that people need people, but not to fix everything for us; we just want to know that, if we trip, someone will be ready to catch our hand before we fall.
To those reading this who are struggling, please know you can get better and community is not about needing to be “fixed.” And for the loved ones lending their ears, remember you don’t need to carry them the entire way; you can simply be there now, allowing them to recover and offering them a smile when theirs has faded for the moment.
“Your eyes must do some raining if you are ever going to grow. But when crying don’t help and you can’t compose yourself, it is best to compose a poem, an honest verse of longing or simple song of hope. That is why I’m singing.”
Sometimes, the darker moments in our lives allow us to grow and learn about ourselves and about others. They allow us to appreciate the beautiful light that follows the dark. Once you get through the moments that seemed impossible, you experience many new possibilities. And when our loved ones stand by us through those times, it also allows us to create our own light by sharing the happy moments with those who encouraged us, held our hands—or simply listened.
TWLOHA Summer 2013 Intern