I’m walking down Bristol Road in Birmingham. It’s Sunday and the sun is shining. I just finished the third weekend event on writer’s block. The sense of achievement and satisfaction expands my chest and lights me up from the inside. On top of all that, I’m going to have a girly time with my friend, so the day is young.
‘Excuse me,’ a young man says as I am a few steps away from him.
Please, don’t ask me for money. I never hand over money on the street. I’ve been having a good day, please, don’t spoil it.
‘Excuse me,’ he says again.
Why can’t he just say what he wants? I look at his face and try to read his expression. His glassy eyes are sad and he looks kind of pale.
I slow down without stopping.
Why can’t he just speak?! I stop and wait.
‘Do you have a phone?’
OK, at least he’s not asking for money.
‘Can you call my mum and say I’m going to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital? I’m not ok.’
‘What’s the number?’
I dial it.
‘What’s your name?’
‘Hello, James asked me to call you. We are on Bristol Road. Number… 333. He’s not well. He’s heading to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. He just wanted you to know.’
‘I think you’ve got a wrong number.’
‘I’m really sorry about it. I’ve been asked to call this number.’ I hold the phone down: ‘James, what are the names of your parents?’ He says and I continue. ‘Does John and Sarah live at this number?’
‘Yes, this is John.’
‘I’m with your son James.’ I repeat myself. It takes a few moments before John speaks again.
‘We are in such a shock. Can we speak to him?’
I pass the phone to James. Never mind that I’ve got two credit cards tucked into the phone cover…. I relax when I get my phone back and ready myself to depart.
‘Thank you so much for stopping. Thank you. No one stopped. No one. You proved that there’re kind people in the world.’
He starts sobbing, his broad shoulders hunched and shaking. I lead him to a low wall of the property next to us, and sit with him. Never mind I’m running late. I’ll wait until his parents arrive.
It turns out James is a drug addict. He was thinking of committing suicide today and it was the thought of his parents’ suffering that stopped him in the end. He is not sure though how long he can hold out given how deeply unhappy he is. He tells me how much he hates himself for failing in life, for letting down his parents, for being such a looser. I listen, not sure what I can offer. It’s not appropriate for me to ‘process’ him. All I can give him is my presence. So he continues. All those visits to psychiatrists, drugs, invasive treatments. An awful relationship when he was 16 and everything went downhill from there. He tells me he’s 24 and he’s a sex addict. My body tenses up and despite his distress he feels the change in me.
‘It’s not like I’m going to have sex with you here. Don’t worry.’
‘Oh good.’ I force a smile.
So he talks some more, his shoulders relaxing, his sobs subsiding. By the time a car pulled up on the side of the road and his mum ran out of the car and hugged him tightly, he seemed much calmer. I genuinely hoped that he’d find his way to recovery and self-love. Of course, he needs a lot more support than a stranger stopping by and being caring towards him, but I pray that our encounter helped him to step onto the path of healing.
As I turned around to mentally wish him well, I saw his mum running towards me. We hugged. Mother to mother. I hope this doesn’t happen to my child, but I do hope someone would stop for him if he needs their help. Her gratitude enveloped me in our embrace and we parted as if we have known each other all our lives.
Sometimes, all you need is to feel seen and heard, like really seen and heard without someone trying to fix you. For someone to be fully present to you, without judgment or an agenda.
Presence is healing in its own right.
Combined with gentle and powerful healing tools, its transformative.
That’s what I do in my healing work: I truly listen to your stories and lovingly help you to script a new path – one paved with deep healing and empowerment.
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