Wednesday 25 November 2020

Being a present ear to listen

They come out of the blue

Sometimes, a stranger approaches you with a conversation about personal things that pertain to life and death. You never know what attracted you to them, but they lose all inhibitions and somehow find trust in the confidence of strangers.

The conversation starts easily as they attempt to gauge what kind of person you are. I have always tried to be courteous, respectful, and listening, with no idea if I can be helpful or not. The initial exchanges set the tone and they soon begin to unburden themselves.

Create new perspectives

One such encounter yesterday had a promising young man ready to take his own life because the relationship with his husband had broken down. It was a difficult issue, and rather than call the Samaritans he chose a random stranger he presumed looked mature and could be understanding of his dilemma.

You can be tempted to tell someone on the verge of suicide not to do it or assert the wrongness of that choice, but I have rarely been persuaded of that tack. Rather, I try to set new perspectives, drawing on my life stories of adversity and loss which at the time looked like there was no way out, the passage of time has made them into stories, told freely with many lessons of life learnt.

We live for a better story

In one last appeal to him, I said, we need to be around and living to get the opportunity to tell a better story beyond the betrayals, the tragedies, the pain, the adversity, the loss and much else. We must ask ourselves, how do we want our stories to end, if told by someone else? It was my hope that something out of our conversation might have gotten through to him to set him on a different course of action.

As it appears, I may never know what he ended up doing, I did not know his name, he was a young black gay man who was married for three years and the promiscuity of his husband had broken him to the extent that he wanted to end it all. When I checked this morning, our conversation had disappeared and with it, every trace of what might have been done in the heat of the moment or the cool of the night. In my heart of hearts, I hope he did not do anything harmful or terminal, I just wonder. May peace rule in his heart, his mind, and his life.

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