we live in such isolated bubbles. most of what we do is self motivated. even the most altruistic among us are driven by self preservation – working for change so that they or offspring might benefit from the change that occurs. the definition of community is so different. most of us in western society don’t know our neighbors but we average 234 ‘friends’ on facebook. our lives are lived primarily in solitude even when our homes are bustling with activity. each member goes to her or his own designated space and generally remains there until forced out. men have their caves. teens have their dens. women take over whatever is left. with as many tools that we have to communicate we don’t do a very good job of being present.
in the past 20 years i’ve heard a lot of horror stories. real horror stories of women selling their children for rocks, men killing their families for less and little boys who slept in bathtubs to stay out of the line of fire. during every session debriefing crisis intervention i have sat and listened without judgement not allowing myself to interrupt. if i’ve said it once i’ve said it a thousand times, ‘if they can survive it i can bear to witness by listening.’
in the core of who i am i believe that what we all desire most is a witness for our life. we can climb a mountain but if no one knows the experience doesn’t feel as real. in trauma the opposite is true. we can survive a war but its the silence we keep that kills us. telling or having someone present to share our life experiences both validates and deflates the hold they have over us.
its a step of bravery really deciding to be present. deciding to bear witness for someone else. sometimes as parents we do it for our children…recording first steps and lost teeth stage fright and learning an instrument. in relationships outside of parenthood we also make attempts at being present by asking about a presentation or job interview we can say happy birthday or check in on someone who mentioned they weren’t feeling well the other day. little by little we can come out of our bubble and blend with others bearing witness for them just as they bear witness for you. if we each commit to do so bit by bit day by day we may find ourselves on facebook less. we may find ourselves surprising rekindling mayberry or something like it…where everyone actually knew everyone else and cared.