Tag Archives: friendship

Simply being present

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“How about this? How about when someone is before us, a real, live person, suffering, we be a person?…in that moment, when they are feeling their humanity so acutely or they have shown themselves to be a regular person like the rest of us, how about we surround them with the grace of being seen, being heard, and simply being loved?”

comfort

This is a brilliant piece by Sarah Bessey, which expresses something I so strongly believe in. The art of simply being present and being human when someone is suffering. I also love this post by Kathy Escobar about being ‘with’ and alongside people.

This is so hard to do. Everything inside us feels we should give some answer, some wise words, but usually there is none to give and if we try we just sound insensitive and trite. But what the person often needs is just other people walking alongside them, being present and being themselves. Some companionship on a dark road even if few words are spoken.

When a close friend of mine’s mum died suddenly, I felt maybe I should go and be with her. But everything in me was fearful. I didn’t know how to be with someone in such suffering. What would I say? Persuaded by a few friends to take courage, I decided to simply jump on a train and turn up, just the day after the tragedy. I stayed with her for a few days and then returned for more time later that month. It was easier than I thought. Lighter than I’d thought. I was just coming to be with her, not to offer answers or solutions, as I had none to offer. But I could offer myself: a shoulder to cry on, a friend to walk with, a praying presence in the house and a helping hand for the practicalities of living that have to continue, even when you feel the world should have stopped. And it was received and appreciated. It made a big difference to her and her grieving. It was a huge lesson for me that just offering myself is enough. I learnt that I carry peace within me because the ‘Prince of Peace’ is in me and so I can walk into a situation and inject peace and hope into it, often without even trying. That may sound arrogant but in fact it’s the opposite. It’s the realization that I have both nothing to give from myself and yet everything to give because of who is inside me.

But I didn’t always know that was the thing to do. I learnt the hard way. Another close friend of mine lost her mum a few years before and I mistakenly thought she didn’t need me or want me around. I was wrong and hurt her deeply. That’s one significant regret in my life.

Another situation happened more recently when a friend of mine who lives on the streets near my home had a miscarriage. I went with her to the hospital and simply stayed with her, prayed with her, held her hand through the pain, grief and bloody mess. It felt a huge privilege. We both knew we were on holy ground. We could feel the presence of God, bringing peace. I wrote a poem about that experience which I wasn’t sure whether I would share on the web but maybe I will. Watch this space.

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People we need

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I want to share with you a poem written by a friend, djordan, which expresses very well, something I feel deeply.

As I read this, I think of my many friends and my family who are essential to my life but live far from me.

You know who you are.

Every so often
we find the people
we realize we have no way
of operating without… 

The rest of the poem is here.

Something valuable deep inside

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showing people their own worth

Absolutely love this.

I feel so deeply that showing others that they have something inside them that is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of trust and that is sacred is something that is so powerful and frees people to be themselves and experience life more fully.

I feel it’s been part of the privilege of the journey I’ve walked with some of my friends who live on the streets near my home. I wrote about that here. As they have been shown their value by people loving them, listening to them, trusting them, some of them seem to have changed and seem to love and respect themselves and those around them more. What an honor to have the opportunity to show another person their own worth.

Friends

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As I get to know them,
As I’m given the privilege
of the title ‘friend’,
I see them.
I see the leaders in this community,
This group of friends
who live on the streets
near my home.
I see the carers, the protectors
I see those who share what little they have
I see those who sacrifice their safety for their friends
I see much to respect and much to love
I see less difference between us
And more in common.

Stopping to chat
Sharing news, a joke, a prayer, a crossword.

As I spend time with them
They see me too
They appreciate my friendship
more than what I could give them
And they very rarely ask for anything.

Sometimes I’m listening to their hearts
through slurred words
Which before would have been all I’d hear
But I can understand why they sometimes choose that
There’s much to want to escape from
Life is harsh, fragile, vulnerable.
Some of them wonder what there is to live for.
After such abuse, rejection and unkindness
I might question the worth of my life too.

Two months in a prison cell
wrongly accused of stealing two hammers
would have been much longer
if family hadn’t stepped in.
Beaten and stabbed by four men
for protecting his friends.
His face kicked in, jaw broken
suspected of eating someone else’s hamburger.
Her face smashed against a mirror
by her husband
telling her she’s ugly.
Raped by family members.
Daily disrespect from people
who don’t see them
Don’t see beyond
the clothes and the smell.

And yet these friends of mine
are anything but hard hearted.
They love deeply
Looking out for each other.
Firey relationships
but underneath
deep commitment and love.

They greet me
with warmth, big hugs, smiles and laughter
And when life hits a blow
they honour me
by sharing their tears also.

When I started on this journey a year ago
Meeting new people at my church’s weekly community dinners

Someone told me to stop thinking about ‘us and them’

and instead think about what you would do for a friend.

I wasn’t sure that would be so easy

And yet that’s just how it’s turned out. Amazingly.

Back then

I was nervous and afraid

Afraid of getting involved
Afraid of being overwhelmed
Afraid of getting it wrong
Would it require too much of me?
Would I let them down?
Would they ask for more than I can give?
What would it cost?

But as I chose to trust God with their journey

and offer genuine friendship rather than rescuing,

As I realised I won’t get it right every time

and that that’s ok

as I walk this journey in community with my church family,

As I chose that path

and just stepped into it rather than trying to figure it out first,

I realised it costs nothing
And yet everything.

Simple acts of kindness
Which cost me little
Just time, love, respect, genuine friendship
Things many people think that they don’t have to spare
Simple acts of kindness
Which seem to speak volumes to them
Seem to touch them deeply.
Not trying to fix their lives
I realise that’s not my responsibility
That’s up to God and them together
But just sitting with them,
visiting them in hospital,
listening to their stories, their lives, their hearts.
Simple acts of kindness
A very joyful and light burden.

And sometimes it’s hard
Sometimes there’s disappointment
When someone you’ve loved and invested in
Makes choices not to love themselves
That’s when choosing to continue to love and show grace,
Choosing to trust God with their journey,
Choosing not to fix or rescue,
That’s when those choices are hardest and most important.

When I used to take food
or something to give them
It often felt awkward
A barrier and imbalance introduced between us.
So now I usually just take myself
That’s what they really appreciate.

Just offering myself
Believing that’s enough
Just that is more impactful than I thought
Nothing and yet everything.

Love softens and changes people
Not giving our own love, which would run us dry
But channelling God’s love,
always replenished and running over,
Always enough.
If we choose to continue to receive it ourselves.
Love that gives people hope
Motivates them towards positive choices
Gives them reason to learn to love themselves.

 

All poems and original writing on this blog are Copyright © Hilary Murdoch 2013

How are you?

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How are you?
‘Fine, thanks’
Always ‘fine’.
Never ‘really good’
Even if you are
What if the other person isn’t?
Never ‘not very good’
Even if you are
Fear of making others feel awkward.

Who are you honest with?
Maybe not appropriate with everyone
But do you have some?
Some people you would talk to

If you were full of joy?
Or if you were really struggling?
Or if you were chewing over a tricky issue?

Not just a facebook status
A real depth of conversation
Honest and deep friendships are costly
Vulnerability is a risk
It’s a conscious choice
Letting our guard down
Sharing our weakness as well as our strength
But it’s worth it
Superficiality is cheap
Reality is rich

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REally loving this blog – thoughts on building friendships with those from different backgrounds and cultures.

love is what you do

The weather changed quickly like it does here in Texas, got cold on a dime, finally felt like fall. There is a party atmosphere at the apartment complex; children whooping and running and yelling at each other in Spanish and Burmese and Arabic. I wish I had brought my girls with me, especially when I get to the top of the stairs, where Lu is conducting art class for a handful of kids who color diligently with markers. She’s the big sister of many of them. I tell her she should be a teacher when she grows up, she’s so good with kids. “Maybe,” she says, ever-worried about being rude. “Probably an artist.”

Her baby sister pops her head up, a red streak of marker down her cheek, “I’m going to be a doctor.” I bet she will. She’s a firecracker, that one.

I knock on the door, slip off my…

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