A couple of years ago I had the wonderful privilege of being a Group Leader for an Addiction Recovery programme provided in my local neighbourhood. I grew to love the people that attended those meetings more than I can possibly begin to express. One particular night a lady showed up for help. Her cheeks were stained with tears, her eyes were red and swollen from crying and her head was sunk deep in her chest with shame and hopelessness. There was a glaze in her eyes that showed me she had been drinking. One of the rules of the group meetings was this – you cannot attend it while you are under the influence. It was my job to send her home.
I sat down and put my arm around her, expressing how pleased I was that she had come. She had shown such bravery and courage and I could see she was suffering profoundly. I told her we loved her, but she needed to go home tonight and let the alcohol get out of her system. I then asked her to make me a promise. “Just promise me that you will come back next week,” I said. She sobbed and shook her head and said she couldn’t make that promise. She desperately wanted to, but couldn’t make that commitment. Why? Because she had made and broken so many commitments in the past that she didn’t even believe in her own ability to turn up to a meeting ten minutes from her home when her life depended on it. She sat there and hopelessly wept on my shoulder. Intense, internalised shame and bitter hopelessness consumed her. What was I to do?
It struck me in that moment, that I had the promise back to front. “You know, I go this all wrong,” I said. “Let me make a promise to you! I want you to know that no matter what – every Wednesday at 7pm we are here for you. Regardless of your decision to turn up – we are here for you.” Interestingly, the following week she came.
I share this because she taught me a powerful lesson about hope. We all need hope – that anticipation of something good – to move forwards in our lives. The lack of it makes life both miserable and depressing. It kills our energy, diminishes our joys and destroys our ambitions. But how do we find hope and how do we develop it and make it stronger? We start with knowing that someone else has hope in us! This lady did not come back because she believed in herself. She didn’t. She came back because she knew we believed in her. When we love someone else, when we show them that we believe in them – we empower them to move forward, to run faster, to not give up. Sometimes it is not a matter of teaching someone to be better. It is about loving someone to be better.
I would invite each who read this blog today, to look at someone you know that is struggling in some way. Look past the behaviour and see the person. Love them, encourage them and help them to believe in themselves. I remember a good friend of mine once saying “It will all work out in the end. And if it isn’t working out – it’s because it’s not the end.”
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