Most days, I experience a question nagging at me: what am I being called to do, to be? The question’s there when I see and hear someone suffering.
It’s there when I walk down Swan Street at 7am on the way to work and see the man in the beanie awake in his nest of bedding and plastic bags and food in the Readings doorway, and when on the trip home 12 hours later I see him there again, sitting and staring. It’s there when I hear the news about Syria, and when I listen to the people around me.
No matter the details, it’s the same thing in each case: human beings not in reality, human beings trapped in a story they have not yet distinguished as a story.
What am I being called to do, to be, to help ease their suffering, to point the way to freedom?
Today, I’m remembering a man who helped me greatly about 8 years ago. I’d only just met him. His name was Alex and he was from Adelaide. We were in a group having noodles for lunch at Darling Harbour. He asked me about my work, which at that time was a painful topic for me. I talked, and as I talked, he just kept on eating his noodles. Every so often, he’d look up and ask, “And then what happened?” And it went on that way for 20, 30 minutes. Him eating his noodles and occasionally looking up, and me talking.
As the minutes passed, I realised something special was taking place. I realised he was really listening, that he was totally there for me. As he listened, I felt more and more accepted and peaceful. All the drama and pain vanished and I was left with the priceless experience of being seen and heard by another human being for what felt like the first time.
That’s the real peace work, that’s real love. Get angry, campaign and protest all you like about this injustice and that injustice, and it’s as naught compared to real peace work, real love.