Last night we sat in on a group of people talking about working with troubled youths. The instructor started cursing quite a bit during her story-telling, and there were some noticeable “whoa”s and nervous laughs in the group of 50 adults as she became more and more vulgar throughout her story.
Then she breaks character (or regains it?) and says,
If I’m offending you, or you’re feeling uncomfortable, you won’t be able to help these kids. They have been abandoned, abused, neglected, hurt. They are untrusting of you and desperately needing of you. They want love, and they want to prove to themselves and you that you are just like everyone else and couldn’t care less about them. They will say all that and much worse. The strongest thing you can say after these outbursts is a simple sentence:
“I’m still here.”
It rang so true to me. In the years since Ezra was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, I have become much more in tune to these hurts we all carry. The searching in our hearts, the wondering who we are, why we’re here, what is promised, what is right, and what is good. I have listened and watched as our friends and loved ones (and Robyn and I) live our lives, continue to define our passions and priorities, break and build.
I have friends who are at the tops of their games – great success, well known, respected. I have friends who are in low places – lives broken, promises shattered. I know many people in the middle of these extremes. We are searching for meaning, we are finding it, and we are searching more. Sometimes it’s far from the forefront of our minds, while we are excited and caught up in the passion of life.
We want to be known, both by others and by ourselves. Maybe we express ourselves through a song, a wall of paint, a film, a quiet garden. Maybe it’s through an attention to work. At the heart of it we look for community – we want to be known. The size of this community we crave can change, but it doesn’t disappear.
Hold fast to the people who truly matter to you, and don’t let yourself fall away from them just because you don’t understand the things they do after loss. It’s a world of broken people we live in, and it’s powerful to speak understanding and consistency to your loved ones.
“I’m still here.”