A Powerful Connective Practice
It’s gray and damp as I write this, so it seems like a good time to talk about a sweet and warm connective practice.
Here’s how it works:
Ask a friend how she is. Ask in such a way that makes clear, I’m here for more than a one-word answer, if that’s what you need.
Listen to what she says. Listen with the urgency of a student listening to a professor explain what’s going to be on the exam. Listen with the single-focus of a patient getting the test results back. Give the friend the fullness of attention we all hunger for, but rarely get.
If we listen this generously, we will soak her answer into our memory and into the folds of our heart.
Which means that sometime, perhaps the next evening or the next week, we will wonder how she is handling her father’s health, her chronic back pain, her discomfort at work.
And when we wonder, send her a note that says, in whatever words feel right, I’m thinking of you and holding what you’re holding in my heart.
When someone has done this for me, the care I’ve felt has been like a hand lifting half the weight off my shoulders.
When I have done this for someone, it has enlarged my heart out beyond my daily grumbles.
We are not taking on our friend’s suffering. We are not fixing it, solving it. That’s not ours to do. What we are doing is extending our love out to it. In essence, we are expanding our heart to hold more of the world.
We can save this for a gray and damp day. Or we can do it any time, with any friend. She or he will need it; I have yet to meet the people who don’t need their load lightened. And likely we, too, will need it; I have yet to meet the people who don’t need their hearts opened wider to the world.
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