The Power of Presence

Since the middle of June, it has been my privilege and challenge to volunteer as a companion with the Mental Health Chaplaincy.  Having worked as a therapist for many years in a community mental health center, I engaged in the lives of many people.  It was an opportunity to help them navigate through the tangles of their journeys to a more balanced and satisfying place.  Now I serve as a companion in the lives of many who have no home other than the open sky or a bridge for a ceiling, the chilling wind for walls, and grass, dirt or cement for a bed.

As I engage with my new friends each week at the Hygiene Center at Immanuel Community Services and at the All Pilgrim church on Broadway for an hour of dinner, I am invited to a world unfamiliar to me, into stories not my own.  But the faces looking at me are a reflection of my own face.  I am not separate.  Even though our stories are different, we all share the same range of emotions, from joy and sorrow, delight to despair.  As a companion, I am challenged simply to listen deeply and absorb as we share our common humanity.

Amidst horrifying dramas, feelings of hopelessness and despair, I am often amazed and surprised to witness resilience, courage and determination to rise above the dark shadows.  What makes it hopeful is our presence in each other’s lives.  The instant smile on Joe’s face as I call out his name reveals his joy of his name being remembered and of being seen.

We are so much more than our stories.

by Atit Marmer