I tend to be a quiet person (an odd thing for a blogger, perhaps) but it’s hard to be quiet when a friend is struggling. I always want to make everything better and so often there just isn’t anything to be done. When someone is suffering we often find that we keep talking, offering words of comfort, or perhaps just talking to fill that awkward and uncomfortable silence. But truly, our presence is more valuable than our words. Presence alone, a silent presence can be so precious when we are in need of comfort. But how much more difficult to be simply present in our transient and yet constantly connected society.
If we lived closer, I’d come over to your house and I’d sit with you. I’d hold your hand. I’d fix you a cup of tea. Seeing your face, I wouldn’t need your words to tell me what to do for you, I’d see it in your eyes. I’d hand you the kleenex or make the coffee shop run for your cappuccino. I’d somehow know if you wanted to talk or if you needed words of encouragement. I’d have a sense of whether you wanted a hug or just someone to sit there and be with you. I’d know if it might be better to leave you alone for a little while with the knowledge that I’m still within earshot. And I wouldn’t leave you for too long.
But how do we do this from a distance? How do I know if you’re hurting and needing a hug or if you’re struggling and need someone to hold your hand? How can I sit with you and reassure you that you’re not alone, that you are loved and that your pain is shared?
On the other hand, perhaps you’re just being quiet. Perhaps you’re taking a break and indulging in some rare and precious moments of solitude. The difficulties may be far enough below the surface that you aren’t battling the demons, you may be enjoying a private, personal retreat.
When there’s distance between us, unless you’re able to tell me where you are and what you need, I have to take a chance. I’m not willing to take the risk that you may need my presence and I’ll have turned a blind eye leaving you with a sense of abandonment. I have to press, I have to ask if you are okay and if there is anything you need to help you through. If I’m intruding into your peaceful solitude, I’m sorry, but I’d rather have to ask your forgiveness than to have left you in need.