The Gift of Presence

imageI went into a local business last week and was escorted into a back office to meet with someone who could further assist me. I observed this woman closely as she pecked away at her keyboard. There were fine lines around her eyes, and on her forehead, across her furrowed brow which aged her, yet I felt she was much younger than she appeared.
Her energy sent a clear message; guarded , tired and bitter, her eyes appeared empty.
As she continued typing away I was drawn to a bouquet of red roses, neatly arranged in a cheap faux crystal vase on her desk. Before I even had time to think, I blurted out “oh, what pretty roses, what’s the occasion?” She froze, looked over at me and said “no occasion, they’re from my husband”. She rolled her eyes and continued typing. “How sweet” I replied, “what a thoughtful gesture.”
She then looked me square in the eyes and the flood gates burst open. Detail by painful detail she shared with me years of struggle, heartache and pain. I sat listening intently as she released pain that had clearly built up over the years. She was at a crossroads, she knew that whichever road she decided to take it would not be easy.

I felt her pain so deeply. She wasn’t looking for advice, she already knew in her heart what she had to do. She was looking for safety, longing to be heard, presence.
I watched as this tough as leather, guarded woman slowly transformed into a hurting little girl, afraid and alone. Our eyes teared up and we connected. As we wrapped up our business and headed back into the lobby she became guarded and stoic once again. She walked me to the door, looked into my eyes and mouthed “thank you.”

I sat in my car in the parking lot for about ten minutes reflecting on this encounter. How easy it is for us to judge others based on appearances. We keep our struggles so deeply hidden and put on our masks as we go about our daily lives, merely surviving. We feel so alone in our struggles and close our hearts off to others, terrified of showing our vulnerability. There’s this great disconnect among us and we fill the emptiness with pleasures and addictions that offer a quick fix to fill the void. Bigger homes, new cars, expensive jewelry, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, sex, you name it, creating a vacuum that constantly demands more and is never filled, never fully satisfied. A culture that values
‘Presents over ‘Presence’

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