I am part of a phenomenal women’s power group.
It is truly transforming. The women there are women I love and want to be with. They also serve as fabulous role models.
We have been discussing the concept of holding space, because as leaders, as women, as human beings, we should learn to hold space for others.
Truthfully, in order for social change to happen, we all must learn to hold space.
Holding space means exactly that, to hold space, empty space, space that allows whatever needs to be dumped inside to be put there.
You cannot judge, cannot push advice. You really don’t need to say or do much except to be there. For many that is not an easy task.
Holding space is simply to be present, which is not such a simple task.
Sometimes our job is to hold space for someone so that they can hold space for someone else.
God knows, I have an army of people that hold my space. Without them I’d never be able to do the work I do!
You really don’t need to do anything but be there holding the empty space for others with open arms or simple words like the ones someone recently sent me in a moment of my own sorrow.
“I see you. I feel you. I love you.”
Seriously, that’s all I needed.
So little is required. Yet so many people overachieve and have the need to fill the space with advice, with words of wisdom that usually are incredibly empty of wisdom.
Two weeks ago, a girl who was in my program a few years ago called me.
I love when they come back to us.
She has been on the run for a while, living on the streets.
“Hi, Ms.,” she says.
“Do you still meet in the place?”
“Yes,” I say.
She was referring to the monthly, now it’s more like a bi-monthly, gathering called “Check In” that The Advot Project holds.
We hold space for kids who went through our program and try to help them with their life challenges, give them support, help them connect to places and organizations that can assist them to achieve their goals.
“It’s a good place. I like it there!” she says.
I smile. I love our place. We meet where our office is at the Westside JCC in LA. It is an old building, but it is very comfortable.
My children went to preschool there.
It is a space that has held me for years.
“I want to come,” she says.
“You are always welcome,” I add.
“It’s okay,” I tell her.
I don’t have many rules for the Check In program.
No rival gang stuff.
The second one is challenging.
“I want to come,” she says again.
“I will text you when we have the time and date of the next one. We should have it soon. Is this your number?” I ask.
“Yup,” she says, “for now.”
I can hear in her voice and the way she is talking that she is under the influence of some kind of drug.
“You know,” I tell her, “There are places you can go to for help.”
I am strict about that one, because we are not experts at that. You need a particular skill set and capacity to deal with addiction.
Sometimes holding space means you admit to what you cannot hold.
I wish I could hold it all, but I can’t.
I love these kids with all I have, but I do not help them if I try to hold what I do not know how to.
Holding space doesn’t work if you are not honest and/or if you try to be something you are not.
A homeless man followed a woman into my synagogue.
She came in a little panicked. I took over and spoke to him but then I had to go in to the service. A man who is a member of our community and who is autistic walked over and in the most nonchalant way said,
“Hi! What’s your name?”
He wasn’t afraid. He didn’t care that the homeless person didn’t smell good. He started a conversation and the homeless man walked over to him and they discussed movies and whatnot.
What a beautiful, simple, non-judgmental way of holding space.
I want to be like that and have the simple talent my friend has who is different from many of us but is such a special person. He had the capacity that day to hold true space.
“How will I do this?” the girl who was previously in our program asked me.
“Slowly,” I said.
“With people that will help you,” I added.
“Can I come after?” she asked.
“Of course!” I said. “You always have a place here.”
“Will you hold my space?” she asked.
“I always do,” I said.
“It might take a while,” she answered.
“I know. The space is yours,” I said. “It isn’t going anywhere.”
What these kids have taught me is that it really requires
That’s what I need in order to hold space for them.
My job, all of our jobs, is to do that and always be here with a space waiting no matter how long it takes. Because if we are here holding space, they will eventually come and fill it.