When sharing our stories, we heal | Church Corner

In my work as a hospital chaplain, I often see people in their most vulnerable times of life. I have the privilege of hearing their sacred stories and looking into their often tear-filled eyes as they attempt to make sense of the pain or burden they are experiencing. I am constantly reminded that I am on sacred ground at these times.

In our lifetimes we will all find ourselves in situations where we need someone to be present to us, someone who will listen. I want to encourage each of you reading this to be that presence for someone else, that one who will listen.

When we look at our lives, there just never seems to be enough time. Our society has become preoccupied with busyness. The freeways are overcrowded because of single occupants in most cars. Our time at home is often governed by what is on TV or we have headphones on and we are playing games on our phones or some electronic device. While these times are fun, even necessary, it can also rule out our conversations about what is happening in our lives. There seems to be a void of recognition as to what is happening deep in our souls.

The other day I passed someone and said to her “Hi, how are you?” and I stepped into the elevator. As the door closed I realized I didn’t even stop to hear her answer.  It had simply become a trite greeting showing no real interest on my part. I was saddened as I examined my own behavior. I wanted to seek this person out again and really find out how she was. We all may do this, but perhaps it is time for us to pause and become more aware of those who are waiting for someone to care so they can be heard, so they can tell their story, to ease some burden or share some joy.

There was a woman at church who shared, “The only human touch I get all week is holding someone’s hand as we pray the Our Father.” Is she alone all week? Who listens to her?  And what about the child who is upset or sad? Do we just distract them, ignore them? Or can we invite them to draw a picture and then tell the story? It maybe that we help them understand why they feel so out of sorts. Can we truly be present to our mates after a long work day? What did they do to feed their spirit through a day of routine situations? There is a growing concern in our communities for escalating mental health issues, who is listening to them?  Can we take the time to sit and listen?

We cannot, not tell our stories. We are designed to communicate. Whether we speak it or act it out we will tell our stories. It is in telling our stories that we heal. I believe that is why Jesus spoke to us in parables, so we would reflect, making our life meaningful with purpose. When we let go of what we are holding inside and speak it or write it, we can begin to heal the woundedness within. Our health can improve, our attitude can improve and our souls can flourish.

In the touching story of Lazarus in John 11:44, Jesus, after calling Lazarus forth from a tomb, turned to the people present and said, “Now you unbind him.”  That is what we do when we listen to one another. We help others set themselves free. By taking time to listen to another we say “you are worthwhile and your story is important, you matter to me.”

There is opportunity, every day, to set aside time to listen to another’s heartfelt words. This time can make a difference in their life and ours. Will you be that presence for someone today?

Glori Schneider is a board-certified chaplain serving the Franciscan Health System at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw.

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