Once a vulture learned to feel good about itself. For as long as it could recall, the vulture had suffered from gnawing doubts about self-worth and its precise role in the grand scheme of things. What could it point to with pride about the life it was currently leading, the vulture would ask plaintively, leaning in earnest towards anybody it happened to encounter? What could one point to with true pride about one’s life, it would continue, as if fearing the hearer might not have gotten the point. When you had to endure such pangs of self-doubt as the vulture did, entering into the misfortunes of others came to seem one of the few hopes for escape: a way out of private misery through partaking in the distress of others, sharing their torment in hopes of overcoming one’s own. O, to confide to utter strangers, “I’m here for your pain”! What relief and sustaining comfort that must bring! So why, in that case, did the vulture suffer this unrelenting depression? Such was the psychological turmoil to which it had been reduced when an acquaintance encountered it one day moving along with a dispirited shuffle and dragging its wings as though they were too heavy to lift. “What’s the matter?” the acquaintance asked with concern. “I just feel so empty inside,” came the barely audible reply. “Just so unable to cope.” “Tried group therapy? It worked wonders for me.” At first the vulture had its doubts about this advice, but after several weeks of growing despondency, it decided to take a chance and joined a support group listed on a community bulletin board as “Here for You.” And despite its initial misgivings, the “welcoming ambiance” that the leader of the group explained was essential to creating successful sessions put the vulture at ease. This group leader, who asked to be thought of not as a “leader” but as a “facilitator-slash-friend,” spoke in hushed, heartfelt tones that increasingly struck a responsive chord within the vulture’s breast. The facilitator-slash-friend asked all those present to “plug into” their innermost traumas and then share them with the rest of the group. The vulture listened to those around it recite their lists of tribulations, large and small, and worried it might not feel comfortable doing the same when its turn arrived. What would the others think when they heard the tales of torment it had to tell? Could they even begin to feel what it was going through? But to the vulture’s surprise, when its turn did come, it displayed a natural affinity for this sort of thing. Once started, and without a second’s pause from then on, it drew sighs and tears all around at the full-throated revelations that poured forth during the five minutes of its own allotted time. At the end of the session, the facilitator-slash-friend said glowingly: “Thank you, everybody, for sharing so much with us today. I’m sure you’ll feel better and better as you share more and more. My goal is to see you find, each and every one of you, that personal comfort zone in your life where you can say, ‘I’m totally at peace with where I’m at today. Totally.’” This welcome validation of its inner needs did make the vulture feel better, actually. It now knew that it wasn’t alone in its plight at least. And now it could see a way to heal its self-doubt, thanks to the soothing counsel of the facilitator-slash-friend. At ease with itself finally and ready now to spread that satisfied contentment far and wide, the vulture even contemplated becoming a facilitator-slash-friend itself. It shouldn’t be difficult to inspire others to find their own comfort zone amid so much suffering, that special inner place where they too could repeat again and again, “I’m totally at peace with where I’m at today. Totally.” For who better to feel the full pain of the world, it now was confident, than an understanding vulture like itself?
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans