Jun 21, 2013 - The Work of the Divine    No Comments

Day 4: What to do when someone is in pain

Dear Pope Francis,

I’m not sure what was happening on this week, but several of my friends were going through some painful and difficult stuff. One friend had to put his loyal and much-loved dog down. Another friend assumed legal responsibility for a relative who has lost the capacity to manage his own affairs. Still another friend had some difficult times with her young adult son.

And people in the Canadian province of Alberta are coping with severe flooding today, with many out of their homes and businesses.

Watching other people go through difficult times can be hard. You want to dive in and help and do whatever you can to make things better. Often, though, that’s kind of beyond your control. It’s something I personally struggle with and I wrote this poem awhile back while going through my own painful experiences. They revealed to me what can help the most in such situations.

Small Things

By Kevin Aschenbrenner

This. This is what you can do.
In the face of another’s pain.

Small things.

Bring flowers. Or wine.

Or both.

Make pots of tea that go cold.

Talk about the pain.

Talk about anything but.


If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves.

If you are particular about the pain, it’s easier to bear.

Small things.

The bigger someone’s pain, the more important the small things.

Look them in the eye.

See them.

Show up.

Be present.

That’s small stuff that’s not-so-small stuff.

This. This is what you can do.
In the face of another’s pain.

Through the small things, you anchor them.
You stand behind them, gently holding their belt loops
While they lean into the pain,
So they can go through it,
But not get lost.

It’s the small things that tether us to life, that bring us back.

And we are all keepers of the small things.

Which is good to know, when we don’t know what to do
to comfort another’s sorrow.

Just remember the small things.

I think sometimes that we believe we have to make grand gestures to help someone who is in pain. What I now realize is that it’s the small things that can often help the most. As author Anne Lamott would say, just show up, be present, and God will let you know what to do. And, most often, the Divine guides us to the small things.

That’s all for today.

Your friend,


Got anything to say? Go ahead and leave a comment!