Sometimes we need someone to just listen. Not to try and fix anything, give advice or offer alternatives, but just to be there… An ear that listens can be medicine for a heart that hurts.
– Steven Maraboli

At the time of the accident, I had just finished high school. I was so happy, ready to start college and spread my wings. Instead, the ambulance rushed me to the emergency room. I was in shock, covered in blood and dirt, sobbing. I had never been to an emergency room or been strapped to a gurney. I was scared, alone, hurt and confused. People in uniforms came up to me saying, “Stop crying. Crying will make it worse.”

“What? Are you kidding me? I am in pain! Stop telling me what to feel!” I was admitted to the hospital, hooked to devices and not able to leave bed for several weeks. A friend sent a well-meaning note: “God never gives us more than we can handle.” What? This was a terrible accident, and I didn’t believe God gave it to me. I became more and more withdrawn. Visitors tried to cheer me up. “Look around you,” one said. “Several of your neighbors in this hospital are much worse off than you.”

Although I understood what these people meant to convey, I thought, “I don’t want comparisons; I don’t want to be judged; I don’t want to be told what to think or how to feel.”

It came to mean a lot when someone would come in and sit next to me and just listen – listen deeply. There were some people who were practiced at that. They knew how to comfort, nurture and soothe me with their very presence. That experience, which happened many years ago, changed my life forever. Eventually, I was inspired to become a board-certified hospital chaplain and a clinical pastoral educator. I now model and teach others that providing spiritual care is an essential part of health care, and that this healing ministry of compassion begins with listening wholeheartedly. But it’s not just for those in health care. Listening. Is an art everyone can learn. It benefits both those in need and those who we wish to help.

As Lao Tzu said, “Silence is a source of great strength.” May it be yours.

The Rev. Anke Flohr serves as executive director of Pacific Health Ministry. Chasing The Light is produced by Lynne Johnson and Robin Stephens Rohr.