We can never overestimate the value of listening to someone’s story, for it takes great courage to share a hurt or even a joy with another person. The fear of rejection, misunderstanding, or criticism often keeps us from telling someone what has made us who we are. But when another person takes the time to sit with us and listen to what we have lived, our hearts grow stronger.
For a day we considered our deepest disposition, sons of Adam and daughters of Eve that we are: we compartmentalize, we believe one thing to be true and behave as if another thing is true, we say “This matters most!” and then live as if it doesn’t really. This tendency has profound implications, for learning, for labor, for love, for liturgy—for all of who we are, for all of how we live.
How do we begin to find our way to coherence? Can we even imagine a way of seeing and hearing that honestly connects what we believe with the way that we live?
I am no carpenter. But my doctor son, with a degree in tropical medicine, volunteers for a humanitarian agency in Burma, exercising his skills with bodies and souls. He is also a poet and artist. His hobby, and a way of calming his mind and expressing his sense of shape and beauty in the midst of suffering and destitution, is to find odd pieces of wood and fashion from them objects beautiful or useful, exposing the wood's inherent quality. Tables, chairs, bowls, spoons! He’s skilled with a scalpel, either on human bodies or on the striated muscles of something that used to be a tree.
Without knowing it, he has given me a metaphor to live by—the sizing up of my trajectory in life.
I will grow in the waiting and be stretched in the loving, and I will be there to smile and wave every time she emerges from this process of becoming. I will choose to bend towards trusting a God who is big enough to hold us both. Heart of my heart, flesh of my flesh, Grace will explore this world in her own way, just like I continue to do.
Sometimes I wonder if the distractions protect us.
We try to prepare ourselves for life’s inevitable. Recently, an unusual number of patients died. Others are at end stages of life. Coping with the losses holds a unique challenge as we find little opportunity to grieve. Instead, we push through to care for the living patients before us.