Be a witness. This one is easy and my favorite life commitments. For some of us and at some time in our life, this world is a lonely place. There are a few choices for us bystanders to do in response to other’s pain. We gain tremendously from all of them. It does not take from us to love another, it only gives us more love.
1. We can simply pray for them from a distance.
A great option to do no matter what. Send them good energy does not take much out of our busy day. We can do it anywhere and without much effort but good results can come. (See Tongling Breath meditation where you breathe light into another who needs healing and compassion.)
2. We can offer a hand.
Walking with someone through their pain is the best thing you can do–not solving it or fixing them–but walking with them, without judgment and with compassion. Counseling with me!
Being listened to fills us with a warm feeling of being acknowledged, feeling like we matter to someone. This is what we are all striving for, and most especially when we are in pain. We need a witness to that pain so that we exist. Never chose to not listen to a friend because you think you are not good at knowing what to say to them.
4. We can give them space.
I am against giving people space unless they ask for it. Too many people use this excuse- that they are giving someone space- when the person is sitting there very lonely, longing for a hug, and ear, a friend. The truth is many people are afraid of someone in pain for many reasons. First off, it reminds them that something could happen to them, or they think they will be brought down by being around someone who is down.
(I am around people going through hard times everyday and it is not contagious. It is actually uplifting, because I am heartened by their efforts, by their resilience and diligence to improve their lives. This motivates me, enlivens me, inspires me.) Or more commonly, they are afraid they don’t know the right thing to say. Don’t say anything but, “I’m here.”
5. We can help them with tasks.
Bringing dinner to someone when a family member is sick is a great practice. Unfortunately there are many hardships that are often overlooked. Like no one sends you flowers when you get divorced, or brings you a casserole when your computer crashes, or cleans your bathroom when you’ve been fired unjustly. I think our society would be so cool if we extended these “thoughtfulnesses” beyond births and deaths.
6. We can say “I see you”.
This simple sentiment grounds people in the knowledge that they matter. It reminds them that they are more than this situation. It reassures them that they have skills and knowledge to get over this thing and that they do not have to do it alone. You are noticing the good in them, there the clouds of the problem. This person needs you to see this because it is hard for them to see right now.
7. Give a hug.
Physical affection is very healing. We can all use it. Hold a hand, hug someone, give a kiss. It is a win-win situation if I ever heard of one.
8. Appreciate them.
Point out to them all of their lovely goodness, they need a reminder. Just love them and tell them that you do.
9. Smile at them.
Our body language does tell people how much we are available to them. Look at them, smile nod, face them. You know.
10. Keep record of injustices.
One of my friends grew up on a farm. She remembers when she was young, 50 something years ago, their neighbor was a victim of domestic violence. There was nothing her mother could do in the climate of her times but ring her dinner bell so that the woman knew she wasn’t alone. The bell was rung in solidarity. Stick up for injustices whenever. Keep record, since this will let those who suffer matter.
What do you do to be there for someone?