More wise than I – The occasional musings of someone who aspires to be “a friend of the homeless,” for others who want to do the same: “Everyone wants to fix everything.” Our culture has developed a whole social strata of people fixers — psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists, therapists, counselors, social workers, just to name a few.
Don’t get me wrong, I value those very highly those who make it their goal to help others. I work with them everyday. I am one with them and one of them. But I also value friendship, something we are all called to, and I worry that we have become so enamored with the “professional” approach to helping others that we have undermined the value of friendship. We’re scared to be helpers and friends merely because we lack a credential.
As Oz said to the Tin Man: “You don’t need a brain, you need a diploma!”
One of the gold standards of the people-fixing field is the MSW: Master of Social Work — as if there were such a thing. Does anyone ever master Social Work? On the one hand, this is a good reason for a little humility, a reason to keep studying and learning. And on the other, if no one masters social work, and everyone is still learning to swim, then all the rest of us of us can be more free to dip our toes in that water, not with a sense of entitlement, but at least with a little less fear that we just don’t know enough to make a difference in someones life.
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
— Henri J. M. Nouwen
Perhaps Henri Nouwen has it right. The best approach to helping is befriending, listening to, hearing, touching, feeling with others, and caring.
As often as not we do not have a cure. We do not even know the cure. Perhaps there is no cure; however, the best treatment, friendship, does not rely on a remedy, but simply on being present in the moment. This simple thing, friendship, matters.