Affirming the person in front of you

A client came to the legal clinic recently. She wanted some help with her adult son’s disability benefits. She wanted information to help prepare her son in applying for the benefits. She told the volunteer attorneys about her son’s various mental impairments, and how life is really hard for him.
The attorneys did a good job in giving her the information that she needed and walking her through what she needed to say. But I could tell that something was missing. She seemed overwhelmed by all the details. I’m a praying man, so I asked God if there’s something else that needs to be said. I got the sense that I should affirm her love for her son.
I went over to the table where she was meeting with the attorneys. I said, “I just want to say that I can tell that you really love your son. I can see how much you’re trying to advocate for him, and how much you care about him. I know that it’s hard and can feel overwhelming, but you can do this.” She got teary-eyed, and said, “Thank you. It is hard. Thank you for helping me.”
After she left, the attorneys thanked me for stepping in. I told them, “As attorneys, we’re trained to look for the legal issue, which is good. But sometimes, we need to think about the person that’s sitting in front of us and what they need to hear. Simply listening and affirming someone who is going through a hard time can be powerful.”

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