How do you respond to a stranger’s pain?  

During my volunteer shift at the hospital, I sometimes find myself in situations in which I don’t know how to act. One time I wheel chaired a man from the lower level to the main lobby. In the elevator, some of the hospital staff were having a joyful conversation and seemingly in a good mood. When we exited the elevator, the man told me, “I wish I could laugh.. I wish I was happy.” I felt unable to speak. I wanted to relate to him and comfort him, but I couldn’t find the words. What do you say when you don’t really know a stranger’s story but could feel their pain?

In a more recent experience, I walked a woman to an elevator which leads to a surgery room. She only spoke Spanish, and with my limited Spanish vocabulary I picked up that her daughter was in the surgery room. We humans do not have to speak the same language to pick up on how others feel. I could sense her worry and distress, but with the language barrier, I could not lessen it. If did speak Spanish fluently, would I know the right words to say?

Sometimes it’s not just words that help someone feel better though. Sometimes it’s just presence and true concern that makes others feel less weight on their shoulders.

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