The next provocative prompt in my volume of suggestions is the word “comfort.” As a mother, grandmother and educator, this is a word that evokes many responses from me. From the top, I think of comfort much more as something that I deliver than something that I receive. In spite of the fact that comfort is most commonly associated with food these days, I think of it as a much more important process.
Comfort can be delivered and received on multiple levels. On Thursday, I observed a young girl who spent the entire lunch period crying, bemoaning the fact that she missed her dad. It appeared to be the byproduct of divorce, with mom and boyfriend living in the immediate vicinity and Dad living some miles away. Apparently, the issue was more of a symbolic separation than actual distance.
Although I’m not a trained therapist, my instant reaction was to provide comfort. But in order to do so, I began by asking a few simple questions. Where was he? When are you planning to see him? Can you speak to him between now and then? Unfortunately, nothing was going to help because her panic was far beyond reach of rational thought.
Comfort to loved ones requires additional skills. In these cases, we know quite a bit about the areas of sensitivity and pain. And to make the process of providing comfort more complicated, we must emphasize the loving/caring component while injecting rational commentary when possible.
It’s easier for me to react to someone’s need for comfort than to decipher from where the comfort gene emanates. I’m confident that it’s not a question of have and have-not – my life has been full of enough emotion and disappointment for me to have a clear understanding of despair. But when I wonder about why I resist comfort, I reach two conclusions.
Even though I don’t consider those who deserve comfort to be weak, I have always believed that I don’t accept comfort easily because I think of myself as strong and resilient. If there’s a contradiction present, I accept it. The other reason is that I have always thought of myself as a caregiver rather than a care receiver. My hope is that this status won’t change any time soon.
In the interim, I continue to be ready to assist and support others who can benefit from my care and concern. Whether it’s a second grader or senior who is having trouble carrying a heavy package, I am eager to lend a hand or two. Shalom.