I have to say this topic is very close to my heart, because I have been the recipient of this wonderful gift more than once in my life. One of my most memorable moments was at a time where I felt my life was falling apart, and I couldn’t see a way through. I was blessed to have a friend who understood the pain I was in and gave me the great gift that quite possibly saved my life. She heard me. She reached out and cancelled whatever she had for the rest of her day and gave me her entire day, without any hesitation. She dropped everything to be there and witness my pain. She knew that allowing me to share what I was feeling would lessen the burden of holding onto such suffering and she listened. She didn’t just listen, she validated my pain, and my life. In those few hours I had her complete attention and compassion. She listened, she cried and she got angry with me. She felt my pain as if it were her own, and in some ways it was, she had gone through a similar trauma in her life, and in that moment I felt something remarkable. For the first time in a very long time I did not feel alone and I felt the strength to face my problems. I will not go into what it is I went through just yet, but as I write more blogs I will start to reveal aspects of my personal journey. Suffice to say I am a young women who has faced a lot of tragedy and setbacks in a very short amount of time.
After my experience, I gained insight into what it is every person needs at some point in their lives, if not all the time, and that is the need to be heard, to be understood, and for their opinion to matter to someone. Human beings are hardwired for connection and companionship, there is no greater form of suffering or more insidious cause of illness amongst people than the emotion of loneliness, and the feeling of unworthiness. We all want to feel we belong somewhere, and we all crave to be heard. Not merely for the sake of attention, although don’t get me wrong there are many who are just attention seekers, but this is generally caused by a deep seated insecurity or exhibitionist tendencies. I am talking about the desire of ever human being, irrespective of status, social or economic class or educational background, for validation of their life. There is nothing that bonds us as people more than our ability to listen and understand each other from a place of non judgment and empathy.
I read an article recently of a man named Matthew, who was searching for a mystery man who he claims saved his life. One Monday morning Matthew had decided he would take his own life and went to the highest bridge near his home with the intention to jump off. When he got to the bridge, as fate would have it, there happened to be a young man on his way to work who noticed what he was about to do and stopped to speak to him. The young man pleaded with the Matthew to stop what he was about to do and discuss what was troubling him. Matthew was touched by the strangers concern and decided to speak to him. The young man recounted a period in his life where he was dealing with serious depression and also contemplated doing the same thing as Matthew, but he thought of all his loved ones and the pain that his actions would cause them and made the decision that day to seek help. He managed to turn his life around, and now has a career he is excited about and a future he looks forward to. He reassured Matthew that no matter how grave the pain he was in there was always a way out and he deserved to live a good and happy life. He asked Matthew to tell him what was troubling him so much that he would resort to such drastic measures and Matthew discussed his troubles with him for over an hour. After the hour Matthew felt much better, and apologised for taking so much of the man’s time and promised he would return home. Matthew felt invigorated and was deeply moved by the strangers kind and generous gesture of stopping on his way to work and spending an hour listening to his problems. Years later Matthew could not get that young man out of his mind, the generosity he displayed that saved him from suicide, he felt compelled to thank him and see him again; that young man probably does not recall that hour of his morning on the way to work, but for one man it was the most treasured gift he could receive.
You have the opportunity to give someone the most memorable gift they will ever receive, one that offers love and care that no amount of money can buy. It doesn’t require much effort on your part except the genuine desire to really hear someone without judgment or condition, and you never know, it may even save someone’s life.
(This article is dedicated to the memory of my dear friend Thao)