Risking connection and compassion

Dear President Trump,

I didn’t tell you about this part of yesterday in yesterday’s letter because I wanted to hold it close for a little while before sharing it with you, my most difficult person – still. What happened is that the universe did its universe thing when one of our neighbors called in the late afternoon and said she’d cut some flowers up at our other neighbor’s house and could she bring them by? And was it ok that they were all pink? I’m not kidding. And it’s not just a few stems – I had to use three vases to get them all situated so the house is full of incredible pink flowers. This unexpected gift on the heels of the Pink Flower Boy’s Walk is such a lovely reminder of his beautiful little life and of our shooting star boy who led us to our amazing daughter (whose name is a flower name J); it really helped lift my spirits last night and on into today.

I don’t know if the flowers or the walk or maybe both put me in a more open and receptive space today, but I was way more present and available to people at church than usual. I often feel kind of awkward and a little ill at ease during the down times in between things at church since I am not in tight with the group of women my age. We are cordial and I like them and they like me, but many of them do outside activities together and go to way more church-related things than I ever attend. All of which is fine, but it can make those unstructured times feel kind of lonely. Well, today was different and it was just because I asked someone from choir how her summer was. We had a half hour or so before service started and so there was time, but not too much time, for her to tell me how well her son did on his summer internship and how the school year is going so far. I got to tell her some about our summer and that our daughter is going back to college this week. It was nice. No biggie, just nice.

And then at the end of the service I got to learn something really important. I sat with the same elderly woman and her son I sat with last week – they were to my right. On my left was a woman I’ve known for years but haven’t spent much time with or ever talked with in depth. Off and on during the service the woman on my left was tearful. She’d told me her 91-year-old mom was in rehab at her nursing home recovering from two major fractures so I figured her tears were related to this. At the end of the service during the postlude, she leaned over and held her head in her hands, crying. I didn’t really know what to do. I didn’t want to intrude, but I didn’t think I could just sit there while she cried so I put my hand on her shoulder and patted her. She sat back up and then leaned into me and let my hold her while she cried for about five minutes. When she was done crying she shared a couple more super hard things that are going on for her. She also said that one of the church moms put her on the “meal train” to make it easier for her to eat ok in the midst of everything she has going on.

It was great to learn of the “meal train” and all that it represents, but the main thing I learned from this is that it’s ok to risk really being there for someone when they are distressed. Yes, I do this at work all the time as a therapist (not the patting/holding part, but the being there part) and while I care deeply about my patients, the boundaries and parameters are different. With other people, of the non-patient, non-close friend or family member variety, I’ve tended to be much more reserved, and if I’m honest, it’s because I haven’t wanted to risk rebuke or rejection. Today I learned that it’s important to go ahead and do what feels right because even if the next five people shift away or otherwise make it clear they don’t want that kind of comfort, the sixth or the seventh person may well need to be held while they cry. It’s worth dealing with the awkwardness that may be there with some folks to be able to be there for the ones who want and need such care. It’s not about me in these situations and it’s cool to see that now.

I didn’t really get that before today.

I’m certain you didn’t get that before today either. And unfortunately, I’m certain you will never get it.

May we be safe from leaders who lack compassion.
May we be willing to risk an ego ding or two in offering comfort.
May we see that it’s healthy and strong to cry.
May we be peace and kindness for one another.

Tracy Simpson

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