Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Little kindnesses

Yesterday, was one of those days when I am reminded how much we, all of us, need each other. It isn't my place to air other people's laundry, but one of my neighbors had a terrible day and all I could really do was sit and hold her hand.

Over the years I have learned that sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is sit and listen - and, know when to tell a joke. It can be so hard to just listen. We all have a desire to fix the problem, to offer well-meaning, but perhaps not relevant, advice. Most of the time people just need to talk, to sort out the chaotic mess in their heads. I don't pretend to be an expert, not by a long shot. My internal editor frequently has to remind me to clamp teeth to tongue.

At the end of the night, you hope, you pray, that you helped just a little bit, that you didn't add to the person's burden or open fresh wounds with unintentional blunders. My studies in Buddhism tell me that life is full of suffering, that all human beings suffer, but our compassion for one another (and a willingness to stop wanting what we cannot have) can mitigate that suffering. These aren't easy ideas, but they help remind me that we are all in this together. Life isn't easy, but we can help each other make our way. Sometimes we help most by being present, a witness, to remind one another that no one has to do this alone.

P.S. It wasn't my intention to sound so pessimistic. Life is beautiful too, but those aren't the parts we struggle with. The good things, most of us, handle pretty well. :)


the mother of this lot said...

I'll bet the neighbour felt much better after talking to you.

Jennie said...

What a good friend and neighbour you are.
I had similar experience with my neighbour last week (I'm such a copycat) Every time I had seen her she looks so sad. So I called to see how she was doing and she told me. She just needed someone to listen to her.
I think sometimes to just listen is definitely more helpful that any advice that can be given.

Liz said...

I can attest to the fact that you are, in fact, a very comforting friend. I'm sure she appreciated having you and B's help.

Maggie May said...

Have just read this post. It is so lovely & you must be a great comfort to your friends & neighbours. A true listener is very rare indeed!