The Importance of Presence

Barbara F. Meyers

Once, during my ministerial internship, a woman I’ll call Clara came up to me during the hustle and bustle before the Sunday service. I knew that Clara struggled with anxiety; now, in great distress, she told me how anxious she was and that she didn’t know what to do. She was frantic, and I didn’t know what I could do for her. At a loss, I suggested that we get out of the busy hallway and go together to a nearby empty room. I sat with her there, holding her hand in silence, and thinking, “What can I do? What can I say? I don’t know what to do . . .” After a couple of minutes, she said to me, “I feel so much better just sitting here with you.” I was amazed to realize that just by being present with Clara, caring about her, I had helped her; that my presence, in and of itself, was a gift. And that her acknowledging it was a gift to me.

—an excerpt (pp. 37-38) from Held: Showing Up for Each Other's Mental Health