I lay on the rug beside the 3-year-old boy as he told me of an upset. He and his dad apparently had a conflict before school that day. The boy told me about his feelings. I brushed back his long blonde hair to see his wet eyes while he talked. When he was done with his story, he got up, and ran to play with friends.
Once a child's emotional needs are met, they are free to risk and explore, to be independent. As a former college instructor and administrator in early childhood education, I sought to teach this concept to students and staff. When one of my staff members or students was faced with a particularly whiny, clingy, or needy child, it could be difficult to convince them of this truth. Children's (and adult's) emotions are too often viewed as problems to be solved. What children need, however, is to feel their emotion, to be heard and to be seen by someone who is truly present. It is only after children are heard that they can move forward. The same is true for adults.
"How are you today?", asked the grocery clerk.
"I'm fine, thank you, how about you?" I asked.
Though she said she was well, I was not convinced and said so. She proceeded to tell me about her grandfather who was having surgery as we spoke. She told me how she hugged him at the hospital as he was wheeled away. The surgery would take much of the day and the prognosis was good. Clearly, though, she was preoccupied. I just listened. I reflected things like, "it's hard to focus on work when you know what's going on" and "even though the prognosis is good, you're worried." To both of these statements she nodded her head and told me more about her feelings. And about her grandfather.
I saw her again a few weeks later. She remembered me, thanked me for listening to her, and told me that "having an ear" helped her make it through that day. I was humbled by her appreciation; all I did was listen.
We need one another. We need the loving, accepting presence of others who listen, who see us, but do not try to solve our problems for us. We need someone who acts as a physical manifestation of the Divine presence for us.
Divine One of Presence:
Your love for all is steadfast.
Your presence allows us,
to use the Gifts you have given us.
Help us to open ourselves to your presence,
that we can more fully be who you created us to be,
that we can respond lovingly to all we encounter.
May we feel your loving presence from others,
in the loyalty of a beloved pet,
in the unexpected beauty of a sunrise,
in the friend who is "but a phone call away,"
and in the stranger who smiles.
May we see and feel you,
in our times of struggle.
May we be your loving presence,
for others in their difficulties.
As we seek to be your healing presence among all people,
we remember the human infant born in a stable.
We remember the One who breathed in your love,
and manifest your loving,
Divine presence among our ancient kindred.