I’m in the middle of a book and as one of the very slowest readers, I do not have the patience to wait until I’ve finished it to share. It’s too good.
In fact, it’s actually about being good. About pursuing “eulogy virtues” in a “resume virtues”-obsessed society. The Road to Character by David Brooks explores a half dozen flawed but inspired lives and the circumstances, choices and temperaments that drove them to pursue radical self-restraint and sacrifice.
It’s humbling and rousing at the same time.
One bit that I keep coming back to is from the chapter on Dorothy Day. As she ministers to a woman who is dying, Brooks explores her art of caring for those in the midst of suffering and trauma.
“We are all called at certain moments to comfort people who are enduring some trauma. Many of us don’t know how to react in such situations, but others do. In the first place, they just show up. They provide a ministry of presence. Next, they don’t compare. The sensitive person understands that each person’s ordeal is unique and should not be compared to anyone else’s. Next, they do the practical things – making lunch, dusting the room, washing the towels. Finally, they don’t try to minimize what is going on.
They don’t attempt to reassure with false, saccharine sentiments. They don’t say that the pain is all for the best. They don’t search for silver linings. They do what the wise souls do in the presence of tragedy and trauma. They practice a passive activism. They don’t bustle about trying to solve something that cannot be solved. The sensitive person grants the sufferer the dignity of her own process. She lets the sufferer define the meaning of what is going on. She just sits simply through the nights of pain and darkness, being practical, human, simple, and direct.”
Naturally, I think of my precious foster children and of my own role in caring for them. While suffering and trauma are in no way limited to foster care, it certainly has more than its fair share.
And so this. This is my new mantra on how to be there for these dear babes.
Give a practical presence, not a silver lining.