Tag Archives: paths

Travel

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The paths we tread…

I spent a night over my weekend in Asheville, visiting with a friend going through a difficult period in his life.  We shared some food and caught up with each other’s lives since the last time we had a chance to be in the same space together.  Even though we are in touch daily through the magic of technology, it’s still a joy to share real face to face conversation in the same room!  Simple pleasures.

The drive from Asheville to Knoxville coming home took much longer than normal due to rush hour traffic and, more notably, to road construction and lane closures.  Departing from my usual habit of listening to music while on the road, I chose to forgo any radio or CD, listening instead to the road and to my own thoughts.  It gave me a chance to absorb my surroundings and to imagine the lives of the people in the vehicles sharing the road with me.

What are their stories, I wondered?  I had just said goodbye to a friend I love like family, not knowing how his current situation and challenges are going to work themselves out, but grateful for the chance to visit and share meals, laughs and tears with him, however briefly.  As the road whizzed (and sometimes crept!) under my wheels, I began to ponder the people in the cars and trucks nearby.  To where, or from where, are they traveling?  The woman in my rear view mirror was on her phone, smiling and chatting with some unseen party.  To my right, a man in a pickup was obviously listening to music, and greatly enjoying what he heard.  Several people on motorcycles buzzed past me going WAY too fast…I had to wonder, “What is the hurry?  Is the enjoyment of the speed worth the danger you place yourself in, as well as those around you sharing this stretch of road?”

Here’s the thing.  Every human being I encounter is traveling a path, just as I am.  We each have a journey along which we learn lessons, finding joy and love, heartache and misery.  Each person’s path intersects my own, where it does and when it does, for a reason.  Our paths may cross but briefly, for a mere moment.  We may travel parallel to one another for a while and then take separate forks in the road.  Now and then, though, I have the joy of meeting a kindred soul whose path merges with my own, and we walk hand in hand, sharing the road with all its varying landscapes and its smooth and rocky patches.  Whether this path is with a mate, a friend or a family member, the road is richer and more beautiful when traveled together.

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Holding Space

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Learning by doing…

Recently while reading I came across a phrase and a concept that instantly struck a chord inside me:  holding space.  Specifically, holding space in my heart for others as they walk their path in life, especially when that path is a difficult, painful one.  It is actually something I have been learning to do my entire life.

Sometimes I’ve described this concept with the following phrases:

“You are in my prayers.”

“I’ll be remembering you.”

“I’m thinking of you.”

“My heart is with you.”

During my work in CPE, I learned that the work of the chaplain is mostly about meeting and caring for people where they are, walking alongside them in their pain, providing compassionate presence, sometimes without words.  It is often uncomfortable simply to “be” with another person, without trying to fix what they are enduring.  We want to fill the silence with words, or noise, or activity.  Often what is needed is for us just to sit with someone, quietly.  These are ways we hold space for a person in need, or in pain.

I remember the morning a few years ago when my friend’s father was actively dying and ultimately passed away, when my friend and I sent Facebook messages to one another as she kept vigil at his bedside.  Just four months ago, another friend and I exchanged messages and a photo as he lay with his beloved dog while she died.  Even though I was unable to be present with these friends in a physical way, I was able to love and care for them…holding space.

The truth is, I’ve been learning how to hold space all my life…I just didn’t know it was called “holding space”.  And that phrase may be one that comes and goes away, replaced by another “concept-of-the-moment”.  I do like the idea, though, especially when someone is of a different faith tradition from mine, or from no faith tradition at all.  Sometimes telling someone that I am “praying” for them might hold negative associations, if the church has hurt them (which happens so much more often than we want to acknowledge).  Sometimes my own spiritual life is not such that I can truly pray…but I can always hold space.  God hears what I can’t say, and the person I am caring for knows they are being remembered with compassion and tenderness.  I’m holding several people even as I write this, people dear to me who are enduring pain that I cannot begin to imagine.  I communicate as best I can with them, and when we are not talking or writing, my heart is with them…holding space.

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