I've been thinking about presence lately.
The presence of friends for one thing. I share joys and sorrows with friends and it seems almost every day someone shares theirs with me. It can be healing or challenging, but never boring.
Then there is the Presence of God, a very real 24/7 relationship for me. Prayer, service and other spiritual practices make this relationship grow but God does most of it.
Presence is something we give as well as receive. It can be a gift or not. When we empathize with others and practice tolerance, our presence can be healing. When we are sarcastic or act out of selfish needs, our presence can be hurtful. It may allow someone else to practice their tolerance, but that's the best that can be said of it.
How we are present isn't something we can avoid, unless we set out to be a modern day hermit. But even those emerge from their caves at some point. They choose to smile or snarl.
For some people presence means presents. Sadly, they equate love to material giving or receiving. But those kinds of presents are not the gift most needed when people face tough times. I'm not talking about using this approach to fail to meet someone's basic needs of food and shelter, but when material gifts are given instead of time and attention, it leads to emotional poverty .
We don't have to know folks very well to be present. Its by being present that we get to know them.
Being present takes time. It may be inconvenient or feel uncomfortable. It can be joyful, ,merciful , spiritually refreshing, or make us feel helpless. But our feelings aren't always a clear reflection of what our presence means to someone else. It is when someone is ill or frightened that he or she needs our presence. We may feel as if we don't know what to say, but we can choose to be present. We may not have advice or counsel and that may feel uncomfortable for us but be a blessed relief for them from unwanted advice.
Being present takes maturity. It can feel exhausting until we understand that there is nothing more fulfilling than really giving of ourselves.
It's by being present to others that we get to know ourselves,that we learn to be present to ourselves.
This is why being truly present is the greatest gift we can give to those who love us.