The Power of Listening to a Story

Thinking alot about helping and being and doing. I want to help people out of the depth of who I am not just the superficiality of what I can do. Especially if what I do has its main value in helping me feel better about myself.

Going to Christchurch after the earthquake was quite a shock to my system. Andrew did some important networking stuff but what did I DO! I looked for opportunities to shovel something or clean something but couldn’t find where to go. There was a shortage of skilled workers. More structural engineers to lead teams into areas where there might be someone trapped and clinging to life. What about the menial labour jobs.

I had this strange sense that people somehow resented outsiders coming in and doing these menial jobs. They kept telling teams of people, “don’t come”. Why? I am still processing this all but this is where I am now.

I think the Christchurch people may need those menial jobs themselves to heal. Standing side-by-side with someone who has seen their house shake like a tender leaf on a tree. Side-by-side with someone who has traded stability for chaos. Someone else with a shattered story. To pick up a shovel next to them would have been violating a holy space.

As I look back on our time there I think I know the best thing that I had done. Listen to stories. Stories of heroes and survivors. Listen until the focus goes off of me and my heroic efforts and over to where it should go, the one with the story.

By listening I  would validate and serve and witness. By listening I would reconnect people with their humanity. With their connection to their neighbour and their land. To place them in time and space and reality. To shift the focus to them. To lift them up. To applaud with my ears and my eyes and my heart.

In a world where fairness and reason and security seems in short supply. In a world where a new disaster comes in the shadow of the last. Perhaps there is some value in that.

We help where we can. We listen. We witness. We validate. We love. We walk in shadows.

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