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.


  • Cathryn on March 28, 2011

    Love you. Yeah…. get that deeply. you guys sooooooo rock over the top.

  • Joanna on March 17, 2011

    Very powerful and a salutary lesson to those who with the best of motives want to go in and help. I was watching a video on the Japanese tsunami and one thing struck me which chimes with what you are saying is one man’s actions is to go around picking up photos and mementoes as they are the things that are important to someone and he complained the soldiers would just bulldoze the lot into neat piles to take away. Do the residents need space to go and reclaim what they can to process it? Our haste to make things right may hinder others recovery I suppose. Food for thought anyway

  • admin on March 17, 2011

    Thank you Adulcia

  • Adulcia on March 16, 2011

    Thanks for being there to listen and to care. As someone living through the earthquakes, being able to talk to someone outside of it all about my story did help. When you try to de-brief with others going through the same thing neither of you are in a space to actually listen to the other’s story, because your own experiences crowd it out in your mind.