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“I will sit with you in the dark.”

May 22, 2023

Some time ago I was watching an unfolding story of an organization that does similar work as we do. The community connector had created a deep relationship with a person who was struggling with life and the power to her apartment was turned off. The person asked for help, but the community connector did not have the means to turn things back on, and instead said: “I will sit with you in the dark!”. What a powerful statement. We are so inclined to bailing people out, fixing their problems, giving money, but sometimes the best thing we can do is sit with the person and listen.

How can we sit with someone in the dark? Maybe the person whose family is falling apart does not need my solutions, but just my listening and attentive ears. Maybe the person who uses up his income on drugs, does not need me to give them something or point them to a rehab center, maybe all they need is a hot cup a coffee and a way to volunteer to find dignity again. Maybe the person who is standing at the corner asking for money, does not really need your money, but the acknowledgement of his presence on this planet. Maybe the youth who is so annoying just needs to be known by her name.

We often say “don’t do for people what they can do for themselves,” because it undermines the dignity of the person and the agency this person has to move forward. For too long we have tried to ‘fix’ the problems of this world only to find that we really have not made a dent in it. All the money in the world, all the assistance in the world, all the reparation of this world cannot make up for the gift of sitting with someone in their deepest sorrow and pain.

Who are the people around you that you can sit with? Who are the people who just need to be invited for a cup of coffee, with no strings attached, no fixes offered, no ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ lectures?

We are all so busy and sometimes giving money, or fixing someone’s problems is faster and easier, but that does not help in the long run and only creates dependency. We need to help people rediscover their own gifts and abilities, their own strengths, we need to introduce them to opportunities they might not have had in the past. Sometimes we really can help people just by sitting with them — in the dark.

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