As a youth pastor, I work hard to ensure my youth members leave our gatherings with “one thing.” I give them the “one thing” I want them to know, and if they leave with another “one thing” that is all right too.
A few years ago I sat in a series of meetings with a group of people seeking to launch an initiative to help another community. Excitement grew as ideas for the most efficient uses of time and resources emerged. After a few more meetings, some wanted to spend more time researching demographics and tactics. My passion started to ebb, as it seemed we were going get mired in an endless period of thinking/study before getting to the actual front line experience. At the end of one long discussion, during a pregnant pause, I took a deep breath and said, "Isn’t it time we just listen and love?” It seemed time to do our “research” by listening to the stories of people and responding with compassion and the respect they deserved.
I highly value education and training for any area where we strive to be excellent caregivers and helpers. I am also aware there are two basic things we can do and should always be doing even if we forget everything else in the moments of responding to those who have been traumatized: listen and love.
How often do we want to quickly fix the sadness, fear or pain of a person who has experienced profound loss or tragedy? All the while we forget our best and first strategy is to listen and take in the story as experienced by the victim. There have been many times, in working with people affected by trauma, when I have been briefed before talking to them. Though the profiles I had been given are accurate, hearing the full stories often takes me to new heights of wisdom I would not have gained otherwise. Of course, there is something to be gained for the victims by you listening in that they simply get to process what happened without judgment or interruption. In listening, I understand better. In understanding, I can more adequately respond by doing the second thing:
To know and be known is one of life’s greatest treasures. The act of unconditional love gives worth to another and lets them to be in the relationship. Unconditional love allows the person to feel respected in the midst of feeling worthless and purposeless. Love brings compassion, mercy, and grace.
There is so much more for me to learn in walking with youth and their families through the traumas of life but this I know: listen and love. Will you join me as we live this together?
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