A “Simple Ministry of Presence”

“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems.

My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress.

But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”

(Quote from Henri Nouwen, an internationally renowned priest and author who wrote 39 books on the spiritual life.)

I had not heard of Nouwen until just now, when someone in the Socially Conscious FIRE group posted this quote as his reason for pursuing FIRE. It so aptly sums up how I have come to feel recently, particularly in the past year or so. And, like Nouwen, I’m finding it is “not as simple as it seems.” It’s well worth practicing though.

The “simple ministry of presence” that he mentions is actually a cornerstone of societal transformation.