For several years now I have served this and neighboring communities as a chaplain and minister. In those roles I have been present as families and individuals have navigated numerous challenges and milestones in their life journey.
I have had the opportunity to sit with parents who are puzzled about how to communicate or connect with their adolescent and teen children. I have visited with single parents who are utterly exhausted from working a full-time job and tending to their aging parent while trying to keep their children in public school. I have listened to teens describe how they hate seeing their parent pursuing serial intimate relationships with strangers while neglecting to spend time with them.
I have visited with couples who are deeply in love and asking questions about what the future holds and where it might lead them. I have been present when families celebrated milestones such as anniversaries, weddings, graduations, baptisms, house blessings and more.
As I move from one encounter to the next, it is ever my hope that each person and each family or couple feels that they are safe, accepted, and truly and fully heard. If someone feels safe, they are more likely to drop all pretense and false personas.
Individuals who allow their personas or masks to fall away are more likely to have an honest and authentic encounter that may serve to move them in a positive direction. If a couple or family feels accepted, then they, too, may be encouraged and motivated to embrace positive change. Finally, if someone feels that they have been truly and fully heard, they will work to further cultivate and grow that friendship.
Chaplains and ministers are not the only ones who need to cultivate safety, acceptance, and being heard. These three principles have the potential to positively impact our community. If each of us worked to help our neighbors and co-workers feel safe, then greater trust and partnerships might emerge. If we were more accepting of strangers or those who are unfamiliar, then opportunities for positive alliances may be the result. If we took the time to truly and fully hear each other, we might live less stressful and more fulfilled lives. More life to you and Joy!
Rev. Mark C. Pafford
Chaplain and Minister