Lucy never thought of herself as lacking something. She was smart, she was in her early twenties, she was in good health and she had a small studio apartment right in the downtown area in which she had wanted to be. Fresh out of college with a degree in architecture, she had landed a dream job to train with a great firm. And then one day, as she ran up the street steps leading to her apartment building, she tripped on a step near the top, lost her balance, and tumbled backwards, down all of those stone steps to which she had never paid any attention before, and crashed into a disheveled heap on the sidewalk. Stunned into confusion, she was momentarily unsure of what had just happened, of where she was, and even of who she was.
Then she felt a gentle but firm and warm hand against her face; seemingly from off in the distance she repeatedly heard, “Are you all right?” Unable to answer, she couldn’t make sense of the question… not because of injury, but because the feeling of that hand against her face had suddenly opened a startling chasm of ravenous want in her heart: It was like being suddenly and ferociously hungry. She had had no idea that her heart could feel so starved for comfort, for this feeling of being cared for, for this feeling of such powerful gentleness. Still, the voice persisted: “Are you all right?” She slowly opened her eyes and struggled to get them to focus, and then: She was staring into the face of someone old enough to be her great-grandfather, and the odd thought flitted through her mind: “How can he be so old and so strong?”
Her bruises and cuts… slowly but eventually… went away, but not her awareness of her previously unknown need. She couldn’t even think of a name for this need: Sex? Love? Care? While the need had elements in it of all of these, no one word seemed right. And even though she could not ignore this need, at the same time she was not sure if it might be dangerous to reach out and touch it. In time she came to define this feeling as a deep need for “connectedness” and this awareness led her to volunteer at the local shelter for battered women.
At first it was only once a week, but the more she experienced their brokenness and heard their stories of abuse, the more she felt her heart ache for them, the more she increased her time there. For some of them their grief hit them like a tsunami, tearing their lives to shreds; for others there was just numbness. Since she was not a professional Grief Counselor she was unsure of words to say, words that might not cause further damage to hearts already bruised and battered. One day, without thinking, she reached out and gently lay her hand against a sobbing woman’s face. She saw the barrier between them dissolve, and the woman fell into her arms.
And, for each of them… it was enough.