Being Present – A way of life
Being Present #2
Written by – Trevor Hayley
At Adelaide Memorials Online, we believe being absolutely present with grieving families is at the very core of what we do. No two families are the same, and what is important and valuable to one, may not be to another. I suppose this is what makes us unique, and keeps life interesting.
It seems we need to be ‘culturally competent’ these days; realistically we should have always been culturally competent, but I suppose with the various movements bringing about cultural change, it seems we have to be careful. In fact ‘cultural competence’ is a requirement on most job descriptions these days.
Culture is so much more than race or place of origin, even though this is an important aspect. It encompasses all of who we are, what we see as important, what we value. Things like gender, dietary needs, sexuality, pro-life/abortion, class, wealth, disability/ability, religion, faith; even which footy team you barrack for; I could just keep going. Contemplating all of this, it maybe even too scary to walk out the door, let alone open our mouths.
So what is the answer? How do we respond? Because it feels we will be ‘jumped on’ the minute we say something wrong, particularly with social media these days. The answer, I beleive is not by what or who we are, but more the way we are. When we may be confronted with something we don’t agree with, is our natural inclination is to rebut, or to be in the mess of the conversation?
When I was a Pastoral Care Worker in a Primary School, the same sex marriage debate, here in Australia, was deteriorating. Noone could say anything without being shouted down. I needed an answer if a parent engaged me in conversation. What would my response be?
The answer that came from my employer was profound, and something I will never forget. Quite simply, the relationship is paramount, any view you may have, needs to give way to the relationship. Very wise advice. So instead of jumping to an opinion or view, which will probably close the conversation down, stay in the mess of the conversation.
As an example if I think ‘black is black’, while another thinks ‘red is black’, instead of saying ‘that’s silly’ maybe the better response may be “help me to understand why you think that” and listen intently to the answer. If you are being present with someone, they may be more open to your words.
I wonder with the myriad of demonstrations on the steps of parliament house, whether there is someone to stand in the middle of the opposing sides, providing a conduit for connection and conversation, would be helpful. Not taking a side, is not a cop out, in fact it is harder, because it is messy. But how rich our interactions may be.
It goes without saying, at Adelaide Online Memorials, we will encounter all manner of culture. That is quite OK. Death is one of those events that seems to bring it out even more. So presence is everything. People just have a desire to be heard and understood.
This commentary in this blog is intended to be general in nature. It is just some observations from one fellow traveller in life to another. If anything in this blog raises issues for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or consult with a trusted medical professional.