“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 healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.”
Nouwen pairs the capacity to sit with suffering and caring. I humbly and fearfully disagree. I believe that it is possible to care, but not know how. Happens to me all the time! I believe that it is possible to care, know what we are supposed to do in a given situation, and really struggle to be silent, stay with others in grief, and tolerate not knowing. I hope this isn’t because we don’t care – because I would be extremely disappointed if that were the case – in myself.
I hope I am not delusional when I add this to Nouwen’s perspective. Although understanding that this description is very true of how to be helpful to hurting people, some of us are more (and others less) suited for this kind of work than others.
This is where I see community as a vital caring vehicle. We can look for, identify and utilize the people best equipped to deal with various situations, and they are the ones to go and do that thing they do better than the rest of us. Or maybe it isn’t about being better or worse, maybe it is more about equipping.
I don’t sit well with pain; I prefer to kick a** and DO SOMETHING in crisis. This is fine if your house flooded – I’m the girl who can help clean it up. I have lots of friends who are better pain containers than me. One caveat – there are times when you or I are the only game in town. For a variety of reasons, some days we are the one who must do the difficult things that are not in our natural wheelhouse. When those days occur, we don’t get to make some excuse about how it is unfortunate that we are available and our friend Ginny is not so that the person in needs goes without aid. We show up and do the best we can.
This is caring. Often inadequate, but nevertheless – the next right step to take.