The Gift of Presence

Henri Nouwen writes, “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey

It is friends such as these that we need most when we are in the midst of grief; for these are the friends who will truly listen, who will truly be present. Too often in our society we think we have to be “doing” something to be helpful. I find myself saying to people that we are human – “beings”, not human – “doings.” In other words, we need to learn how to simply be, to be present with one another, to be present with ourselves, to be present with our pain and sorrow – as well as our joy and gratitude.

If we are always doing there is much we miss. Not that I would ever wish illness and disability on anyone, but since my life has radically changed in this way and I have not been able to “do.” I have been amazed at the things Ii have taken for granted, and things I had not noticed because of my doing. Taking time to be present can open our eyes to a much larger world, as well as the simple beauty that is waiting to be noticed. Taking time to be present can also make us vulnerable and put us in touch with deep emotion – resist the temptation to runaway from it, or change the subject – stay with it, hold it, embrace it – simply be with it. In so doing, you will discover that even there, God is; for there is no place or experience that God is not present – even if we can’t feel it or see it – we are never alone – that is the gift of presence; and we are invited to be the gift for one another.