How Being Seen and Heard Makes Stress Less Stressful

What would it be like to be loved for who you really are?  Not romantic love so much as the love of your fellow human beings and a good sense of belonging to them.  When you feel truly heard, feel truly seen, could it be possible to deal better with life’s stresses too?

Labor Day weekend was a very uncommon weekend of joy.  My husband and I traveled to the Hill Country here in Texas to join missionary and church leaders from all over the world for a time to connect on the heart level, collaborating, celebrate the birthday of one of the founders of this non-profit, Luke 10, and experience a bit of teaching in a setting of mutual sharing rather than just talking heads at the front of the room, and lots of laughter and good food and even balloons to bat about as though we were kids, and bubbles to blow as though we had lost our minds, a good thing for a little while!

There were some stressful circumstances that could have destroyed the joy but did not.  The plumbing went out, and there was difficulty finding water to bring in more since it usually came from Houston.  But Hurricane Harvey had snapped out that option.

No showers for 3 days, potties overflowing–no more need be said.  On top of that, our cook was a young culinary student, and this was her first job.  She had to deal with the water situation and more—an old, slow oven that took twice as long to cook the food.  Her menus were high in carbs, and for those of us dealing with health issues, it was a bit challenging–but she didn’t know about all that.

So we all humbly accepted these inconveniences, knowing our suffering was little in comparison to the victims of Hurricane Harvey.  Everyone was patient and helpful, trying not to complain.

There were gas shortages also. We drove to town one night to tank up, and it felt weird and a bit scary to know gas supplies were low.  People had to double up in SUV’s to get to the airport, but in the end, that just created more opportunities for relationships.

And I noticed everyone really listening to others.  Feeling really seen and heard by others in such gracious attentiveness allowed my heart to expand and my capacity to endure hardships, such as we had at this campsite, increase.  I think everyone there experienced this kindness from others.  No one was an unapproachable expert.  No one was a nobody.    Fat, skinny, homely, pretty, young, old, everyone was received as a gift, treasured, paid attention to, listened to, prayed for, accepted, respected as an expert in their world.  People from the US, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Russia, and Israel.  I got to hear a Messianic Jewish woman skillfully play a guitar and sing some in Hebrew—awwwesome!

And I, after bravery with all of the above, fell apart over daddy long-legs spiders in our cabin!  I killed either a dozen or the same few over and over in our cabin.  Seemed like when you set your foot down to stomp them, they disappeared into thin air.  And I cringed at the thought of having them in the bed.  One morning it happened: there was a dead one under my pillow when I moved it.  Ghastly!

And there were a few bizarre incidents.  An older lady fainted at the dining table and had to be carried to bed and prayed for.  It was scary seeing her eyes roll back in her head.  But a friend who was a doctor in Great Britain came quickly to her side with his incredibly calming voice and knew just what to do.  She recovered strength as though it never happened.

Also our cabin door, always difficult to open, completely froze, unmovable—after everyone else had left!

We pushed, shoved, kicked to no avail.  Finally we looked among our tools in the car and Kent was able to pry it loose. Oh my, what a relief!  It’s just such a weird feeling to not be able to access your possessions and also have everyone gone from a place.

But the weird things probably won’t be well remembered.  The unpleasant events will be moved to the background.  Center-stage in memory will be the time together with people, who took time to really listen with a kind attentiveness to one another, the encouraging and up-building conversations, and some heartfelt prayers—these will be the glow of memories well made.

Children especially need undivided attention when we most feel the need to multi-task…but slowing down to pay attention to a child, or a needy adult,  will slow the listener’s heartbeat too.  A good thing.  De-stressing can be simple.  A little dose of kindness…and maybe batting around a few balloons!



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