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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

David Brooks, "The Art of Presence": Consider "The Cable Guy"

Did you ever see the 1996 dark comedy "The Cable Guy," starring Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick? It's not one of my favorite films, but it certainly illustrates that there are different degrees to which we, or at least I, want "friends" involving themselves in our lives.

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Art of Presence" (, David Brooks tells of the horrific tragedy which struck the Woodiwiss family and, referring to Catherine’s Sojourners blog post for Sojourners, provides a list of "dos" and "don'ts" "about how those of us outside the zone of trauma might better communicate with those inside the zone." Among Brooks's "dos":

"Do be a builder. The Woodiwisses distinguish between firefighters and builders. Firefighters drop everything and arrive at the moment of crisis. Builders are there for years and years, walking alongside as the victims live out in the world. Very few people are capable of performing both roles."

Whereas I certainly empathize with the Woodiwiss family and respect their thoughts, needs and preferences in times of trouble, my own wishes at such times have been different.

When faced with tragedy or trauma, I have not wanted "builders" in my life. Nor have I taken comfort in "firefighters," seeking to do their duty.

I have a small group of friends, and we will always be present for one another. I don't need or want more than that.

But that's just me.

Each of us is different.

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