Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Frosty Sunday afternoon

Our foster daughter who has severe handicaps. She has taught me more about "just being with somebody" than anyone else.
Guilty feeling..
After Church my wife and I grabbed a couple burgers and sat at a park eating lunch in the feeble mid-winter sun. My wife is still involved as a director on the local Habitat for Humanity board and they had an opening for a house they had renovated this afternoon. Partly because I felt out of step with the NZ Habitat for Humanity directions I resigned a few years ago. It is funny, my wife refrains from telling me what is going on because she knows I will get stewed up. I am happy to help with work, but they tend to get trainee groups doing stuff now and not volunteers. (Which I think cuts at the heart of the impact and essence of Habitat for Humanity - but we won't go there.) Anyway Jean had to go to the opening and assist so she had her car and I came home in mine. I felt partly guilty because I should perhaps be there to support her like she often is with me. But I would find it hard. I came home and because of my guilt have been doing stuff around here. I'm now sitting in front of the fire with a cup of tea and my computer. 
Generous lifestyle
In this morning's service I spoke about a generous lifestyle. The passage came from II Corinthians 8 where Paul is trying to get the Corinthians to cough up some money for the Jerusalem Christians. I came up with four reasons for living generously that were a part of this passage. 
  • Faith without action was no good. Our faith should lead to putting love into action.
  • Generosity is God's way and if we are generous we put ourselves into the current of God. We dance to the same music God dances to.
  • Paul sees generosity enabling a fair balance. The Corinthians' abundance can help the Jerusalem need. Theres an important principle for life. There will always be people in need through no fault of their own. Sometimes we may be those people. It is up to the strong to help the weak, the able to assist those less able, the rich to help the poor.
  • Paul saw this collection as a means of breaking down barriers that existed between the Jerusalem Christians and the gentile Christians. Generosity breaks down barriers.
Yesterday I ran (jogged)
My knee has not been painful for some time so yesterday I thought I might test it and go for an extended run. (I have run a few times just for 5 minutes.) Yesterday I jogged 6k to see if it impacted my knee. It was nice to be running again. There is something about a run that beats all other exercise. So far my knee feels good.   

Being with people 
I have had reason to think about listening skills lately, or more correctly what makes you good at working with people. I have a Social Work Student on placement with us and that exercise makes you think about such things.
At my last supervision session my supervisor told me, “You have a special way of being with people that other people would love to be able to do. Other people try to be like you but with you it is natural, it comes from your heart. You can be with people and there is nothing judgemental about you.” Now I am not sure that she is correct about me having a “special way” but I do like the phrase she used, “being with people.” 
You can learn creative listening techniques - People will study facilitation skills, group work and social work models - You can say all the right PC things, watch your professional skills and processes etc. etc.... But so often working with people is really simply “being with people”.  You can do all the right techniques but still fail to be with people. You can be physically with people, but full of yourself and concerned about your competency to play the role, so not really with people. Often instead of listening attentively, we can be thinking of the next thing we want to say.  There's a worship chorus that has the line, "So forget about yourself and concentrate on God and worship him." In a real sense to be with somebody is to "forget about yourself and concentrate on them." Sometimes the most help you can give is to just be in silence and still be with that person in a valuable way.  Often we feel compelled to fill the silences. Have you ever looked back on a long association with people a realised you have traveled with them. You may not have been called on to do much for them, but your presence alongside them in  life has been important. To be with somebody is to not let yourself get in the way, and to allow the other to be. At college and since I have enjoyed reading McQuarries' existential theology. In his Introduction to Theology he names God the Father as "Being".  He names God the Son as the "Letting Be" of God. I love that term. It hit me when I first read about it that my task is to live in this world and enable others (people, creation etc) to be! To so live that I "let them be", not in the sense of leaving them alone, but living in such a way that I support them and help enable them to be all that they are. So when I am with people as friend, minister, chaplain or social worker, I am to be with them in such a way that their being is able to find expression and move toward its fuller expression.
Sometimes we impose our being in the relationship. Sometimes we fail to respect or recognise who the person really is, because we want to channel them on different paths. When you think about it, it is pretty hurtful to be in relationship with some body who does not accept you for who you are. Their attitude and demenour really says, "You are a nobody" even though they may think they are there to help you. On the other hand, if that somebody is just themselves with you and accepts you as just yourself, it is an affirming, life enhancing, and even a life changing experience. 
One of the difficulties is a lack of personal confidence. We feel we have nothing to offer unless we say "the right thing" or use "the right technique". In reality people need not so much our exterior skill, but more just to be met by another caring human being. We need to trust that who we are is OK and that somehow when we relax and be ourselves in an open way truly with another, we are offering something very special. 
Enough burble... I did not mean to rant on about that... one thought led to another... but I'll stop there.

1 comment:

Keith Harris said...

Not a burble; not a rant, just an outstandingly thought-provoking post.