On Being Supportive

apple treeAt the back of our office, there is a small grass area surrounded by a wilderness of brambles and wild flowers. A while ago, someone planted a very small apple tree which has a short piece of aluminium tubing next to it as a support.

Over the winter, and indeed into much of the spring, the tree was doing a very good impression of a dead twig. No leaves, no signs of life at all. But with the slowly rising temperatures, and all the rain, it sprouted new leaves and is growing nicely.

The aluminium stake is only there to help the tree survive the worst of the weather, the wind and storms. It does not help the tree to grow, it is so loosely tied to the developing sapling that it does not influence it in any way, it just stands there and offers support when the tree needs it.

That is how we should be when we offer support to someone. We are not there to influence them or to change the way they are growing, just to provide additional strength when times get tough. We must show compassion when they go through growing pains, have wisdom to help them overcome their issues and use our courage when they lean on us.

Being their support brings it’s own challenges. We have to accept the path the person we are supporting decides to take, whether it would be our choice or not. We must listen to what the person is saying, but not try to influence them or provide conflicting view points. We also have to have the strength to resist the forces that would otherwise cause us both to falter.

That is the role of a support. It’s not an easy role, but it does bring it’s own rewards. In time, like the tree, the person may in fact become stronger than us and no longer want or need our support. But the joy in seeing them grow and become strong is reward enough for the task undertaken.

Being There

Bridge Over Troubled WaterI was watching the Imagine documentary about the famous duo Simon and Garfunkel  and although it has been said many, many times before, Bridge Over Trouble Water is an amazing track. The documentary explored the development of the song, from a two verse gospel hymn, into the beautifully produced anthem it finally became. Although that was very interesting, and gave an insight into the way the duo worked together to produce the song and the album of the same name, nothing can compare to the power and simplicity of the lyrics.

Read them, then read them again, and see how they relate, in such a simple but powerful way, to the supporting role of being there for someone who needs you …

Bridge Over Troubled Water
When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes,
I will dry them all
I’m on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can’t be found

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
When you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

Paul Simon, 1969

I couldn’t have put it better myself and even Paul Simon himself believes it is the best song he ever wrote.

You Have My Support

Apple TreeAt the back of our office, there is a small grass area surrounded by a wilderness of brambles and wild flowers. Last year, someone planted a very small apple tree which has a short piece of aluminium tubing next to it as a support.

Over the winter, and indeed into much of the spring, the tree was doing a very good impression of a dead twig. No leaves, no signs of life at all. But with the slowly rising temperatures, and all the rain, it has sprouted and is growing nicely.

The aluminium stake is only there to help the tree survive the worst of the weather, the wind and storms. It does not help the tree to grow, it is so loosely tied to the developing sapling that it does not influence it in any way, it just stands there and offers support when the tree needs it.

That is how we should be when we offer support to someone. We are not there to influence them or to change the way they are growing, just to provide additional strength when times get tough. We must show compassion when they go through growing pains, have wisdom to help them overcome their issues and use our courage when they lean on us.

Being their support brings it’s own challenges. We have to accept the path the the person we are supporting decides to take, whether it would be our choice or not. We must listen to what the person is saying, but not try to influence them or provide conflicting view points. We also have to have the strength to resist the forces that would otherwise cause us both to falter.

That is the role of a support. It’s not an easy role, but it does bring it’s own rewards. In time, like the tree, the person may in fact become stronger than us and no longer want or need our support. But the joy in seeing them grow and become strong is reward enough for the task undertaken.

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