Tag Archives: thework

Putting the Pieces Together

This is a story of a story of a story…*

With no advance notice, one day the uncle of a young boy was asked to look after his nephew for a few hours.


While thoughtfully considering a quiet activity to keep his nephew busy during the afternoon, the uncle paged through a magazine featuring a photograph of the earth from space. The image was taken from a new perspective, as it was a recent NASA photograph captured during one of the space missions.

Removing the page from the magazine with the earth’s image, the uncle decided to make an impromptu puzzle of the photograph by carefully tearing the page into manageable puzzle-size pieces. Then, placing the pieces in a random order on a table with a roll of clear tape, he thought to himself, “That should keep him busy.”

When the man’s nephew arrived, the boy was given the impromptu puzzle to work. Retreating to another room to attend to yet another project, the uncle was surprised to see his nephew appear about a quarter-hour later. The boy showed him the fully restored photo of the earth from space.

“How did you put that together so quickly?” the uncle asked.

Turning the puzzle over, the boy revealed another image—that of a person. The nephew explained, “I turned the pieces over and found the picture of a person. I knew that if I could get the person together, I could get the world together.”

And so it is. Blessed be.

*Thank you, Martin Hill, for passing this story along.

The Work

Standing behind a newly plowed mound of snow, I wait outside in the cool air for my friend, Adam. We have an informal appointment to go to the coffeehouse together to catch up on things.  Adam is excited to tell me about the new woman he is seeing.


Driving up in front of me, Adam slows his vehicle to a stop. Then, quickly leaning across the inside of his car, he opens the passenger’s side door.

Taking a large step across the freshly plowed bank of snow, I approach the car in two more steps only to face a wall of profound grief. Sliding into the passenger’s seat, I close the door swiftly behind me to conserve the interior’s heat.

Turning to Adam, I ask, “What is up with this wall of grief?”

Adam gazes at me intently, while shrugging his shoulders and shifting the vehicle into gear. We begin to move.

“Don’t you feel it?” I ask rather impatiently, trying to cut through to the heart of the matter. Adam is normally a focused, chipper, can-do man with a highly and amazingly developed sense of emotional attunement. It surprises me to find him at a loss of awareness about the sea of sorrowful emotion by which he is being completely walled off.

“Where is it coming from?” I ask yet another question on the same topic. “There is something wrong. Your essential Adam-ness is being injured.”

Finally Adam responds, “I am not sure what you are picking up on.”

Taking a slower approach, I attempt to explain what I am experiencing, “Normally, when we get together there is a certain ‘Adam-ness’ about you and your personal energy. It is kinetic, generally happy, quite focused and aware. Today when you opened the car door, it was like hitting a great barrier of grief that was smothering your essential being—a profound sadness is permeating everything. This is not you. This is not who you are. The profound sorrow is not yours.  Where is it coming from?”

In a brief conversation, Adam describes some of the trauma his new girlfriend has experienced in the past.  He also talks about wanting to help her get to a better place by holding some of the grief for her.

“It doesn’t work that way, Adam,” I explain, shaking my head emphatically.

“Can’t I even help her just a little bit?” Adam intones, “—Emotionally?”

“No. The grief will not leave until your new girlfriend makes the decision to divest herself of this old, emotional baggage. She may need help going through the grieving process, but you cannot do her work for her. You cannot carry any of this grief and expect her to make any progress—not even ‘a little bit,’ as you say.  She must do the work on her own. It is the only way.”