I love the story my friend Doug Manning tells about pastoring a Baptist Church in Tulsa many years ago and being friends with Oral Roberts. They would often meet at sporting events and while they were friends, they had very different ideas of ministry. Doug used to tell Oral, “The difference is you like to lay hands on people and I like to lay ears on them. ”
Are you good at “laying ears” on people? The most basic and powerful way to connect with any person is simply to listen. Put away any distraction. Be present not only with your body, but with your eyes and ears and just listen.
Cancer patients particularly appreciate this. They are experiencing a multitude of feelings – anger, fear, disbelief, hopelessnes. Random thoughts are coursing through their minds - remission, suffering, hospice, death? Their whole world has been turned upside down.
If you will be quiet and present and truly interested, they may tell you what it is like - and there’s nothing to do but simply receive them and care about them, without feeling a need to give advice or tell your own stories.
When someone is in pain, saying “I’m so sorry,” and meaning it is enough.