Growing in Friendship: Listening within the pain

By Ryan Storch

There is a man here named Amado who I have gotten to know quite well. The other day I was playing basketball in the yard, and after I shot my final swish, I sat down next to him. I asked him how he was doing and we began to talk about the weather. Something I’ve learned in my life is the importance of silence within conversations. Attentive listening requires constant contemplation, not constant questioning. Because of this, most of our conversation was me sitting there listening intently, awaiting his next sentence.

As we talked about the beautiful weather, the conversation began to shift towards the depression he was feeling. You could see it in his face. As he was talking, his face pointed downward and after each sentence he exhaled a great sigh. Listening patiently, he began to open up to me about his story. He told me about his liver problems and how he has a tube in his body that filters his liver (which he said is the reason he stays alive). I then heard about how his mom kicked him out of the house years ago, and his sister doesn’t even know what to do with him. Additionally, he has a girlfriend who has a child and grandchild, and he doesn’t want to live with her because there isn’t enough space in her apartment. Amado concluded his story with one phrase that pierced me: “I really have nobody.”

Words cannot describe the initial empathy I felt for Amado! He looked at me with what seemed to be the eyes of hopelessness. A rush of peace cascaded over me, and I began to share my story with him. I told him that although I do not understand what he has experienced, I can relate with him in the realm of uncertainty and pain. For those who are reading this who might not be aware,I lost my older sister Taylor on a family ski trip in March of 2010. I witnessed her accident from the moment of impact to her body landing in the snow beneath the trees. Taylor was probably my closest friend. We shared the same bond for music and art. After her passing, my parents were told that Taylor was a great candidate for organ donation, and because of this, they were able to donate her organs to save five people’s lives. I have had the privilege of listening to her heart beat ever so strongly within another woman. Telling Amado this story, I shared that within the early stages of grief, I was constantly unaware of what the next day entailed. Everyday was consumed by pain and hurt. I then began to share with him that I wasn’t able to see the Lord’s provision of the situation until I reflected on the situation after time went by. As I began to relive the long days, weeks, and years of pain, I realized that God was there the entire time. In fact, not only was he there, he was active, and in control. 

After I told this to Amado, I gave him my Taylor’s Gift bracelet on my arm for him to look at to remember the Lord’s provision for when he begins to feel in pain. After he put the bracelet on, Amado moved his cane aside, stood up and gave me a hug saying in my ear “I love you bro!” Such joy this was. When I was younger, I never thought I would be able to share my story to someone outside my inner circle, let alone find joy within sharing. There is a beauty that comes from the experience of shared suffering. Every human, no matter how rich or poor, no matter what skin color, no matter the level of intelligence, suffers. Life is better lived when we take the time to listen to one another, and love each other within our pain.

“A friend loves at all times.” – Proverbs 17:17