If they say
a metaphorical reflection piece inspired by my healing journey as a survivor of sexual assault.
twelve years ago today, a friend called me to let me know they had entered a day program for mental health treatment. during that phone call and for months afterward I could only listen; we lived too far apart to visit in person. my friend’s family and friends who lived closer gave their support in a variety of ways, as my friend and I would for one another in the years following, but on that day I was a listener.
listening requires patience and openness to actively engage our ears and our hearts. we may not always know what to say, but by making an effort to listen and be present we can learn how to help those who choose to be vulnerable with us. they may not know quite how to express themselves either, choosing to be vulnerable isn’t easy, and a painting, a poem or an email might come before conversation.
in the twelve years since the phone call, I’ve listened to others’ stories and tried to help in the ways I was able - but I’ve also sputtered, shaking nervously, when being vulnerable about something for the first time. whether they lived far away or close by, those who took the time to listen to my jumbled words helped them grow into coherent thoughts of recollected experiences.
we don’t always know what will come of listening - the person may just need us to listen or they may ask for further assistance and sometimes we may need to be a bridge, linking the person with other people or resources to ensure the helping continues - but by listening we gain valuable insights into how to navigate the darkness to reach safety.