Wednesday, 8 June 2011
The need to share
I overheard a man telling another about some sad news he had just received...a member of his extended family had been killed in a car accident. I wasn't trying to listen, but from where I was sitting, it was impossible to not hear. After he shared the news, he explained his relationship, shared a couple of memories of the person. The other man listened, and said he was sorry to hear, and that he understood how hard it is to get news like that. And then they parted.
The whole exchange took maybe 2 minutes. But it reminded me how very much that kind of sharing is hard-wired into our lives as humans. For as long as we can go back in history, there have been funeral rites of one kind of another. And mourning. And however it's couched in terms of the next world, the fact is the process is really for living. It's a way to share and to be comforted in that sharing.
Decades ago in our culture, the exchange I overheard would have been unnecessary. People in his community/town/neighborhood would have known the relative. And they would have gone to him, to express their sympathy. Odds are, they would have known the relative who died, too, so everyone would have shared their stories and memories.
It's much harder now. We have to find someone to share with...a coworker, a friend, an acquaintance. Our blog readers. Or even a stranger, like I did when I started to cry in a restaurant a couple of weeks after my mom passed and the waitress sat down and listened.
I've found myself in that "stranger who listens" role a lot lately. I've been giving away some furniture using Freecycle, and people are sharing their stories of why they need the items I have to offer. I haven't asked...but I hear that they need to share, even though we are complete strangers. So I listen, because I can tell that these are stories they need to tell. And I am touched that they are trusting me with these pieces of their lives.
A few years ago, I wrote a post about how isolated we've become, and how most Americans have on average only about 2 people in their lives they can really talk to about important, soul-touching things.
So we share our sorrows -- and our joys -- in little pieces with whomever we find who will listen.
The question is, is it enough?