how to comfort people David Brooks, an author and columnist for the New York Times, gave an excellent lecture here at Chautauqua last week.

What I like about Brooks is that he doesn’t just write about politics but about what it means to be human. And one of the biggest challenges of being human is how to adequately help someone who is suffering and in crisis. His words are the best I’ve read to guide us in that difficult situation.

“We are called at certain moments to comfort people who are enduring some trauma. Many of us don’t know how to react in such situations, but others do. In the first place, they just show up. They provide a ministry of presence. Next, they don’t compare. The sensitive person understands that each person’s ordeal is unique and should not be compared to anyone else’s. Next, they do the practical things–making lunch, dusting the room, washing the towels. Finally, they don’t try to minimize what is going on. They don’t attempt to reassure with false, saccharine sentiments. They don’t say that the pain is all for the best. They don’t search for silver linings. They do what wise souls do in the presence of tragedy and trauma. They practice a passive activism. They don’t bustle about trying to solve something that cannot be solved. The sensitive person grants the sufferer the dignity of her own process. She lets the sufferer define the meaning of what is going on. She just sits simply through the nights of pain and darkness, being practical, human, simple, and direct.” ― David Brooks, The Road to Character

Do you have any other ideas on how to provide comfort when it’s needed?

4 Comments

  1. Coelle Baskel on July 8, 2018 at 11:51 am

    Thank you for directing me to “The Road to Character” by David Brooks. There are so many wonderful thought-provoking quotes to savor!

  2. Nancy Lepri on July 8, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    Whenever I come across someone who I think needs comforting, I offer a big hug and the assurance that I will always be there for them.

  3. Jeanmarie Shingleton on July 11, 2018 at 11:29 am

    One of the best books I’ve read on dealing with tough situations, including helping others through them is “Option B – Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy” by Sheryl Sandberg. I recommend reading it whether you’re dealing with something or you know someone, or may know someone in the future, who is dealing with tough times of any kind.

    • Emilie Richards on July 11, 2018 at 1:13 pm

      Thank you, Jeanmarie.

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