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Two Walking Together is Better than One

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Two Walking Together is Better than One
Sharing First-Hand Experience
By Dr. Ned Steward


         I hardly know anyone who would say their life has been easy.  Even privileged, wealthy people, might not say this.  What seems to be a common theme in all our lives is that we have had trails, hard times, and problems to solve.  At times, we have been grateful for good things that happen, times we have celebrated an event or a victory.  But it is not just the good times that bind us together, that make us feel a common bond.  Sharing those experiences where we have overcome something also makes a bond between people.

         When I think about the progress of the world and the increasing use of technology in communicating, I wonder where it all lead.  As you know, for many past generations, education was basically one-on-one.  A tradesman or a craftsman would teach his children or other interested persons his trade or craft in the course of doing it day by day.  First-hand knowledge went from person to person.  Still today, there are trades such as fishing and farming where this is done.  I think this is more prevalent in many Eastern countries than in some Western countries where family trades and industries have almost vanished.

         You can contrast this idea with the increasing use of technology, especially the internet.  We can have access to much information without the benefit of first-hand knowledge.  We cannot ask any questions, “What do you really think about this?” or “What are the advantages and disadvantages?”  We are left with pure information without the accompanying human wisdom that goes with first hand sharing.  Gathering information in these impersonal ways does not incorporate the values that are often needed.

         Being a teacher is my profession.  I teach students how to counsel and help people solve their various problems.  Counseling and mental health therapy consists of a basic set of interpersonal skills.  These skills cannot be learned simply by gaining knowledge.  To be a good counselor, one also has to acquire skills by actually doing the work.  When I am with my students, I often share first-hand experiences as a way of showing them important aspects of what they should be learning.  Then to reinforce this knowledge and experience, I review with them their work and try to point out important things for them to remember.  We say that some things are better caught than taught(don’t know how this will translate).

         When I was a young boy, I spent a lot of time with my father and grandfather.  Both these men were not educated, but they had much knowledge.  My grandfather was a farmer, and as I spent time with him, I learned many valuable lessons about life.  He had time to share with me and show me how to do many things.  I suppose I could make a living as a farmer just by remembering things he taught me.  But he taught me more than farming.  He taught me how to be a man, how a mature man conducts himself around others.  He showed me how men should relate to women.  I learned how to safeguard my reputation.  So many lessons of life were handed down by first-hand experience.


         My father was a carpenter.  As I played around where he was working or as I worked with him when I was older, I learned the basics of putting up a building.  I learned how to cut lumber and erect walls.  Many years after my father died, I decided to build an additional room on my house.  I did it myself, using the knowledge I remembered from my childhood time with my father.  And I constructed that room, I thought about my father every day.  This is what I think about as the value of first-hand experience.

         For a while in my early years, I served as a counselor in a hospital.  My job was to visit and talk with patients.  The hospital where I served was a large hospital with thousands of patients and employees too.  Everyone was so busy.  It was my job to deal with the personal needs and difficulties of the patients.  Nurses and aids were always busy doing things for the patients.  People were coming and going all the time.  But it was easy for the patient to feel uncared for because no one had time to see to their emotional well-being.  This was my job.  I was there to listen and to care.  I was there to console and encourage.  Sometimes I just sat with patients, and at other times, I tried to get them to talk about their situation and experience.

         I remember the story of one young patient counselor like myself who went to see a dying patient.  This young counselor wanted to help, to say the right things, but the opposite seemed to occur. Everything he tried to say came out wrong.  The dying patient was an older man who had much wisdom.  So he said to the young counselor, “I think you must be new at this.”  “Yes I am” replied the young man.  “Well, we’re both alike,” said the patient.  “We are both going through something for the first time.  I think we can do it together.”

         I love this story.  Each man realized they had something to give.  The dying man knew he had knowledge and experiences yet to come which he would contribute to the young man if the young man were patient and a willing learner.  Not many of us have been so blessed as to have someone willing to let us see what coming death is like.  Also, it is possible that none of the older man’s family and friends would be willing to walk so closely to someone with a lot of pain and grief.

         Here is what I recommend.  When we have the opportunity to be with someone going through some hardship, we should come along side as much as they allow.  Try to understand the nature of their pain.  Try to know their method of coping.  See how the whole experience changes them.  Do this as an interested person, as someone who cares.  Do it for the sake of love.  You, yourself, will be forever changed.  But why would they allow you to get so close?  Because every person fears being alone.  Every person wants someone to care like you will.

         This is what we Christians believe about our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Our Bible, God’s Word, says, “17 This means that he had to become like his people in every way, in order to be their faithful and merciful High Priest in his service to God, so that the people's sins would be forgiven.18 And now he can help those who are tempted, because he himself was tempted and suffered.17 ด้วยเหตุนี้เองพระองค์จึงต้องเป็นเหมือนกับพี่น้องของพระองค์ทุกอย่างเพื่อจะได้ทรงเป็นมหาปุโรหิตผู้เปี่ยมด้วยเมตตาและสัตย์ซื่อในการรับใช้พระเจ้า และเพื่อจะได้ทรงลบมลทินบาปของปวงประชากร18เพราะพระองค์เองทรงทนทุกข์เมื่อได้ทรงถูกลองใจพระองค์จึงทรงสามารถช่วยบรรดาผู้ที่กำลังถูกลองใจได้

         We are willing to be with others through difficulties because Christ was with us.  We know that he knows first-hand because he suffered just like us.  We know He loves us because he said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

         You might be the person going through the difficulties.  If so, be willing to let others come close to you.  You have much first-hand experience to help someone understand.

         About two years ago, my wife’s mother died. And just before she died, I was able to spend time with her.  She may have allowed this easier than to have one of her own children to come so close.  We have always been good friends.  Now I will always treasure that time because she taught me much about dying and living, about God, and about how to face something so overwhelming.  Her quiet faith increased my faith.  

         Sharing first-hand experience is so valuable.  We have much to teach each other.