Don’t just do something, stand there. (A 1-minute reading.)

February 16, 2012
By

standOne of my first kids was initially brought to AidChild covered in wounds—the beating kind.  Nearly every inch of his little body had been abused.  We don’t know his date of birth, but he must have been six or seven years old.  It was truly awful.

Like all of my kids, he quickly rebounded, and seemed to even flourish.  That said, he did have frequent anger issues.  And when he would become extremely frustrated (with minor, everyday disappointments or struggles), he would stand at the edge of our hill, and yell at the top of his voice.  A terrible, awful war cry.

Each time, I would try to calm him, comfort him, and quiet him.  But it didn’t work.  He would just shout all the louder.

Finally, unsure of what else to do (and I believe that I was responding to a prompting from Someone greater), I decided to join him.

I stood at his side, looked out over that hill, and let out my own war cry.  “I don’t know what we’re yelling at,” I told him, “but I am right here with you.”

Soon, peace came to us both as we stood there.  And shortly thereafter, he responded to frustration and disappointment in more healthy ways.

The cries were no more.

I shared this story in a class today, and the professor said, “Sometimes, we need to tell ourselves, ‘Don’t just DO something, STAND there!’”

Often, simply being present with another in their time of need—even when we don’t “get” it, comprehend it, or fathom it—can bring about tremendous health and change.

We don’t have to connect intellectually in order to be of support emotionally and spiritually.

So the next time you’re at a loss for what to do in the care of another, don’t just do something, stand there.

9 Responses to Don’t just do something, stand there. (A 1-minute reading.)

  1. Sharran
    February 16, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Amen, Nathaniel! While I do not understand how someone can abuse anyone, much less a child, what a reminder of HOPE in the darkness. And healing.

    This is great advice both from a professional perspective and personal one. It reminds me that when I am at a loss as to what direction to go in next with a client, sometimes I just need to stand still and let the answer come through observation. And, it also reminds me, that in times of pain and need, when I have been a crying mess, and my husband has said “I don’t know what to do. What do you need?” He is learning that often the answer is “Just a hug and a kiss and to be with me here in this moment.” And vice versa, it is often just what he needs as well.

    Thanks for the insight.

    • February 16, 2012 at 7:04 pm

      Sharran, Thank you for this tender note. The fact that this resonates with you in your amazing and important work, well, that is a gift. The notion of “being present” is so simple that it seems value-less. But we know better. I hope we can unpack this further at some point. –N

  2. February 16, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Awesome anecdote, that reminds me of a story I was told from home(Uganda). A rich man would always offer money whenever the village lost a member but would never attend because he had more important issues to attend.So one day he lost his wife and the villagers contributed money and sent it to him for burial. He could not bury nor grieve his wife that way so he asked for help.The elders then told him sometimes,we don’t need money but your presence. So don’t just do something,stand there!Lovely wisdom

    • February 16, 2012 at 7:06 pm

      Aliker, GREAT insight. Thank you. I agree. I love how Ugandans partner in grief. I wish Americans did the same. Let’s meet soon, please. –N

  3. Chelsea Bradford
    February 16, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Thank you, Nathaniel. This was perfect.

    • February 16, 2012 at 7:12 pm

      Chelsea. I know you are writing from a place of grief, and I am honored, empowered, blessed, and humbled by your note. Thinking of you all, –N

  4. February 17, 2012 at 5:28 am

    A good reminder. Often I try to DO something, thinking this will fix a human spirit.

    • February 17, 2012 at 7:16 am

      I hear that, Lynne. Me, too. The permission to be, and to trust beyond the moment can be freeing and empowering. –N

  5. Deb Knox
    March 14, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Powerful….and timely for my family. No coincidence, I think, that I am reminded of this at this time. Thank you.

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Nathaniel is CEO of AidChild.org. He holds a Master's Degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University where he was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship, and winner of the 2010 Harvard HDP Marshal Award. He also holds a PhD in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego where he was the Dammeyer Fellow in Global Education Leadership, and a Cordes Fellow at Opportunity Collaboration. Nathaniel is author of "We Are Not Mahogany: Three stories about the male African life." Prior to his move to Uganda in 2000, Nathaniel was Deputy Director of the Office of the Governor of Arizona, and Director of Education at Leadership, Inc.

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