[Clip Hat Tip: Allan R. Bevere ]
In this clip, Duke Ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas describes our discomfort with being among those with Alzheimer’s disease (in his class at Divinity School he used this same illustration to cover all debilitating diseases). He says that we have forgotten how to be present for another person, and that is what’s most important. Then he uses the word ‘learn’: we have to learn how to be present for another. It doesn’t come easily, in other words. This speaks a lot to me, especially as I had a pastoral visit of someone who had a stroke and left this person speechless. As my congregations get older, I find instances like this more and more. It also got me thinking about other things, too.
After watching the clip and being reminded of the importance of presence, I started thinking about what I wrote yesterday about how Lent is exposing me, especially in light of how unintentional I am in time I spend with my 13 month old daughter. She is of course very different from those with Alzheimer’s or other diseases, but Dr. Hauerwas’s comments could still be applied to what I am experiencing with my daughter. I love my daughter, but at her age spending time with her is different than spending time with others. Typically, I’m most comfortable speaking with adults and my comfort decreases the younger they are (younger than me, really). Speaking with most other adults, I seem to know the rules, the questions to ask, the topics to stay near or away from. With youth and children, throw all of this out the window and one must enter a world of culture that includes what they are into and what they are watching. It’s also a matter of any topic can be open, as I found out with my first confirmation class. They went through passively the five week course and then we went to Epworth, the home of John and Charles Wesley for a day out. That’s when they started with the real questions about sexuality and other faiths!
With my daughter, I am trying enter the world of the Tweenies, Underground Ernie, Bob the Builder, and Charlie and Lola. I am having to learn how to be present with her – and I want it to come naturally and easy, but it doesn’t always! But, in having to learn, I can let go of the guilt of feeling that I am not doing something correct or worry about getting ‘quality’ exactly right. Right now, I need to simply learn to be present with her. This gives me the opportunity to learn who she is and let her learn who I am, but in a much different way than I am used to.