Once a vulture learned to feel good about itself. For as long as it could recall, the vulture had suffered from gnawing doubts about its own worth and its personal role in the grand scheme of things. What could it point to with satisfaction about the life it was leading, the vulture would ask mournfully, bending in earnest towards any soul it happened upon? With true satisfaction, it would continue for emphasis, as if fearing the hearer might not have gotten the point. Was it condemned to be the only vulture in such distress? That hardly seemed possible, given the dark flocks circling the sky in what must be the same urgent search for relief. All likely driven by a deep feeling of emptiness within to seek out and identify with the torments of others as a way of filling that inner void: swooping down to share the pain of every sufferer they spied. O, if only it too could find the confidence to fly to the agonies of others and declare, “I feel your pain”! What relief that must bring and a sustaining reason to go on! This was the glum sense of inadequacy the vulture had been reduced to when an acquaintance encountered it one day moving along with a dispirited shuffle, dragging its wings as though they were too heavy to lift. “What’s the matter?” the acquaintance asked with concern. “You look terrible.” “I just feel so dead inside,” came the barely audible reply. “So lacking in purpose.” “Tried group therapy?” the acquaintance asked. “Worked wonders for me.” At first the vulture had its doubts about the suggestion, but after several weeks of growing despondency, it decided to take a chance and joined a support group listed on a community bulletin board with the inviting name “Here for You.” And despite its initial qualms, the “spirit of giving and receiving” that the leader of the group explained would form the guiding principle of each session soon eased its concerns. This figure, who asked to be thought of not as a “leader” but as a “facilitator-slash-friend,” spoke in heartfelt tones that immediately struck a responsive chord in the vulture’s breast. The facilitator-slash-friend urged all those present “to access your inner hurt and find the words to put all that behind you.” The vulture listened to those around it recite their lists of tribulations, large and small, and worried at first it might not be up to doing likewise when its own turn came. What would the others think at hearing of the torments it daily endured? Could they even begin to feel what it was going through, or would the experience prove too harrowing for them and, for it, just another exercise in false hope? Yet when the vulture’s turn did arrive, it discovered it had a natural affinity for this sort of thing. Once started, and without a second’s pause from then on, it drew pained sighs all around for the full five minutes of its own allotted time. At the end of the session the facilitator-slash-friend said glowingly: “Thank you, each and every one of you, 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 reach, every last one of you, that personal healing zone deep inside where you can finally say, ‘I’m totally at peace with where I’m at today. Totally.’” This welcome validation of its inner need did make the vulture feel better, actually. It sensed a nurturing bond with this facilitator-slash-friend and left the session so filled with a new self-assurance that it even contemplated setting up a few group therapy sessions itself. It shouldn’t be difficult to bring others to find their own healing zone amid all the suffering it would encouraged them to unbosom themselves of, that deep inner space where they too could repeat again and again, “I’m totally at peace with where I’m at today. Totally.” For who better to relieve others of their woes, it now rejoiced with soaring spirits, than one as ready to feel their pain as a vulture?
Copyright © 2005, revised 2008, by Geoffrey Grosshans