I was sitting with a friend of mine on a park bench in Piedmont Park in Atlanta. She was telling me about a devastating experience that she had as a child. She was abused and tortured by family members until she finally escaped her home at 15 years old. The pain of her experience was palpable. My heart broke for her, even as I marveled at the extraordinary woman that she had become.
In response, I did what seemed natural. Feeling righteous indignation for her suffering, I started trying to fix it. I said, “Were they persecuted? Can we do that now? There have to be consequences!” I began spinning with idea after idea trying to make her pain not so bad, the injustice not so great.
Kindly, she reached over and took my hand. She said, “Cameron, your kindness means the world to me. I don’t need you to fix me. I need you to hear me. I just need to be seen.“
I think about that moment a great deal in these broken, painful days. We do have much we need to fix. But we also have many among us who simply need to be seen. We are doubled over with grief. We are buried by demands of work, family, and homeschooling. We are unemployed and terrified of losing everything. We are isolated and alone.
Being seen and heard in the midst of our pain is deeply healing. Listening creates relationship. Everyone has a story and wants to share their story in order to be connected. That connection creates the healing we all so desperately need.
The Gospels tell a story about a Canaanite woman whose daughter was ill. She went to Jesus and begged him to help her. Jesus ignored her and the disciples complained about her. “Send her away!” they said. But she kept begging for help. “SEE ME, ” she was saying. “Hear my story.”
Jesus looked at her then and said something shocking: “It’s not right to take bread out of children’s mouths and throw it to dogs.” She came back: “But beggar dogs do get scraps from the master’s table.” It was then, in the face of her vulnerability and her courage, that Jesus finally saw, finally heard her humanity connecting to his own. The woman’s daughter healed.
It’s a strange story but one that has taught me much over the years. Seeing and hearing each other is hard, even for the most enlightened among us. But when it finally happens, when we allow for genuine connection, we become a bit more whole.
May it be true for us in the beautiful and heartbreaking days.
We are in this together,