I met my friend Tina in the park this afternoon and we walked around a simple loop that encompasses a local park. She is struggling with quite a bit right now and just wanted to talk things out. We looped countless times around the park as she ranted and cried and told me all about the challenges she has been facing. Anyone in her shoes would do the same. Times are tough for her right now. As we walked, I noticed a few things start to happen. I wasn’t saying a word. I was simply listening and giving her signs that I knew and understood what she was telling me. Slowly, I noticed her voice started to get softer and her words weren’t as angry. And she started to think things through for herself, tossing out ideas for steps she might take to improve her situation. I continued to nod and “uh-huh” and “mmhmm”. By the time we completed our final lap, Tina had a plan in her mind and she was ready to take appropriate actions.
After I said goodbye to my friend, I decided I would do a few more laps myself . . .it was a beautiful afternoon. I noticed an older couple walking hand in hand just ahead of me. As I passed, I was struck that they weren’t saying a word to each other, just slowly walking along and enjoying the afternoon together. My next lap around, I found them sitting on a park bench. She had her head nestled into the crook of his neck and he had his arm around her shoulders. Again I noticed they were not saying a word, just sitting quietly enjoying each other’s company. What a beautiful sight it was to see this couple, in today’s crazy fast paced world, just sitting together and finding peace and quiet with each other.
Both of these situations today made me think back a few years ago when I regularly visited a 97 year old woman named Helen. I was connected to her through a program that matches people with senior citizens for visiting and companionship. Helen was a feisty woman at her age. She did not have any family and all her friends had died or were bedridden just like her. I used to sit by her bedside and hold her hand while she complained about her aches and pains, talked about how crazy her husband of 60 plus years used to make her, and sometimes even tell me I should sit up straighter and not slouch so much :). She just needed someone to be there with her. To listen. To let her voice whatever it was she needed to voice. I miss Helen. I miss the gift of slowing down she gave me when I visited her. The simplicity of just sitting and listening and being a presence for her.
The events of today and thinking back to my visits with Helen just got me thinking . . . .how much more peaceful the world would be if we could make time to slow down and really be present to another person each day. We DO have the time to do it. We just have to make it a priority. I am going to make sure being a presence to someone is on my daily “to do” list. Will you join me?