“What should I tell my children?”
She looked at me expectantly for an answer.
I heard myself screaming in my head. I continued to look at her to which I had no answer.
She was a new friend whom I saw for the first time this week through a volunteer program. The moment she walked through the bolted door, I loved her with the type of love that Greeks called ‘agape’ – the love for everyone. And we were both thrilled to meet!
“So, what do you think? It’s hard.” She prodded again.
I looked even deeper into her eyes – they were glassed over in shame. Shame was her very own Judge, Jury and Jailer.
Keeping a neutral face, I blinked slowly to gather my thoughts, and I heard myself repeating her words.
She just continued to sit across from me, with her shoulders now fallen in, and me too. I was sad for her – but there was nothing I could do. The situation was too complicated.
But that’s the most help sometimes.
Sometimes, the kindest thing is just to sit with somebody without trying to solve their problem. Just sit with a friend through the storm.
Three Types of Volunteers
In volunteering, as with life, there are three types of people who give:
ONE: The Saviour
The Saviour wants to ‘save’ another by placing themselves higher than the other. This can be done financially and with a ‘it is better to give than to receive’ attitude. Or the bening type of just wanting to feel better about themselves, as those long gratitude lists don’t work.
Their self-worth is boosted by maintaining the current status quo where they are higher.
TWO: The Sacrificer
The Sacrificer wants to have an ‘equal’ society by placing themselves below others. This can be done through giving excessive amounts of wealth, time and energy to others and causes.
Their self-worth is seen as worthless unless they equalise the status quo, where they were naturally higher.
THREE: The Soul-Searcher
The Soul-Searcher sees the other as a human being on a soul-level; with struggles, respect and dreams that matter. They place themselves equally beside the other. This can be done by being a friend and just sit with the other through their pain and struggles.
They see their self-worth equal to the others and will respectfully and courageously change the status quo where appropriate. Another post on healthy boundaries to come!
You may have guessed, the first group (Saviour), is very common amongst frequent churchgoers and affluent circles and are often attacked by the second group (Sacrificer) because of their wealth and projection of religious behaviours. Another description can be a bitter martyr.
But how easy it is to criticise!
Cycling Through These Labels
In this short morning visit, I cycled through ALL of these so-called labels. And these labels are not who you are as a person, only dispositions that we can choose to act or not act upon.
“Write ‘FRIEND’ in the Reason for Visit section,” my guide pointed to the form.
“What? I’m a volunteer, thank you very much – not a friend,” I rebutted in my head, but I saw my hand scribble defiantly ‘Friend’ anyway, trusting in my well-experienced guide. It was in such childish writing that I forgot even how to spell it.
As we shifted to the next security guard, “a volunteer?” I laughed to myself – well, that’s the Saviour attitude right there.
When all the paperwork and checks were done, I finally got to see Rose* (*name changed).
I reminded myself to meet her on a soul to soul level – despite everything.
“So, what do you think? It’s hard.” Rose prodded again.
My mind raced through plausible solutions – to which none were suitable. Then, it proceeded to consider comforting words of wisdom – but I ain’t here to preach.
Neither was a darn, “I’ll pray for you” suitable or even useful. Plus, it would be too flippant and disrespectful, considering I didn’t know her story.
Finally, I was at a loss for words. I just stared back into her large, expectant and empty eyes and repeated back,
The next couple of minutes to a ticking clock, we just sat looking at each other. In the discomfort, in the pain, in the struggle, together.
I didn’t say any of the things I had prepared for weeks to say to her. She cried, and I looked on at her (my work has made me immune to crying when clients do, so that I can serve them properly).
I don’t even know if it even got through to her that I care for her a human being, because I didn’t cry or have a proper answer.
I didn’t even know if my nervous system could survive another visit, before our time was up.
But, as with all friendships, it begins with getting to know each other.
So, before we walked back through our parallel hallways, I urged, “write to me!”
So, as you are reading this, I made the decision to visit Rose again and will keep you updated. I am no different from her, neither are you. We stuff up, and sometimes we stuff up big time. I am not a good person, though I choose to be – I stuff up a lot, but I still try, but we all need a friend who will love us unconditionally.
Life can be a storm sometimes, and it’s better to be with a friend who will just sit by you, without barraging you about how stupid you are to be in a storm in the first place or playing pity party.
If there was a label that I would walk away with, it would be ‘friend’.
See you next week!
Photo credits: Unsplash