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"Be Present" - Not Just Another Pretty Crunch-Granola Phrase

Posted Jul 15 2011 12:45am

I've been quite absent lately from the blog world. I have Google Reader, which is great for reading, but not quite as good for commenting. And there's this idea in my head that I need to "catch up" with a mega-brilliant post, and that's feeling pretty daunting. (Then again, Crabby McSlacker of Cranky Fitness made a comeback--yeayyy!--so maybe it's not too late...)

"Hmmm," I thought to myself. "Maybe I could just post little 'postlettes,' but more frequently? Or maybe I have something in my drafts that would do?"

And then I came across the following in my rough drafts. I wrote it over a year ago. Funny how I sound just as harried then, eh? This past year has also taught me a lot about how powerful that can be, being present for others, so this finally seemed like the time to post it. Without any further ado....


Ever feel like "just being there" for people can sometimes seem so...passive? Not useful, because we've come to associate usefulness with concrete action?  I know I feel that way more often than I'd like to admit.  It's not a comfortable feeling for me.  I prefer to jump in, do things, take action to bring about the desired result.  

Some of you may remember that time in early 2009, when my mom was admitted to the hospital with congestive heart failure and needed heart valve replacement surgery.  I made two trips downstate, while Mr. Handsome-and-Handy kept things running smoothly on the home front.  There wasn't much I could do, other than "be present" with my parents and be their phone liaison to our extended family, so that my step-dad and mom could have the time and space they needed.

Talk about feeling passive and helpless!  To my mind, the important doing was in others' hands.  I was just an extra thumb.  (Although maybe an extra thumb is more useful than one would think.  One of my ancestors had with an extra thumb; too bad I can't go back and ask him.)

Anyhow, one of the mornings we were sitting around, sipping coffee and reading the local paper.  I'm not a big news reader, so I was browsing for the comics, and I came across a Q&A column syndicated from The Kansas City Star called Searching for Answers. The topic was, "How do you comfort a grieving person who doesn't have a faith?" (This article was published on 2009-01-17, Page F12, Kansas City Star, The (MO).  Their archives are available by subscription only, so I'm unable to link to the original.)  Two ministers' thoughtful responses were used for the column.

I know, not a very happy topic when one's mom is in the hospital, is it?  But boy, the first minister's answer and its timing was quite what I call a "woo-woo moment": that is, if my life were a movie, that would be the moment where the soundtrack plays that "woooooooo-EEEEEEE-ooooooooo" music.  You know those coincidences that make you sit up in your chair a little straighter and pay attention?  That makes you ponder along with the X-Files' Agent Mulder: "If coincidences are coincidences, why do they feel so contrived?" Yep, one of those moments.

Rev. Pat Rush advised something called the ministry of presence
"The ministry of presence requires a willingness to spend time with another in a nonjudgmental and nondirective manner...simply crying with others in their sorrows and rejoicing with them in their good times.  It is the ministry of love and concern for another, fully respecting what the other both believes and doesn't believe.  It is the ministry of 'staying close together' with another." 

In other words, "being present" for someone.  This article and its timing helped me understand that I was doing--by not doing--exactly what my parents needed me to do for them.  (And happily, it all turned out fine:  my mom healed and is doing great, and both parents quit smoking.)

I clipped and saved that article, and I've wanted to blog about it for awhile now.  For some reason, this just felt like the right time to share it.  Maybe because I've been really busy lately and have been unable to "be present" here as much as I'd like to be.  Maybe because I (and others) seem to be struggling with the health and fitness stuff a little more than usual.

When I wonder whether things like Twitter or Facebook are just big time-sucks, or when I feel a little overwhelmed by the whole blog thing, I think about the times when I've shared joys and triumphs, grieved with others, waited and hoped with others for various news or results, or simply listened or felt heard.  This "bring present" thing?  Powerful stuff.
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