The Good News of Jean Abbott’s Accompaniment, 3.30.2017

by Mark Chmiel

Jean Abbott* is like Kwan Yin, a bodhisattva who hears the cries of the world and through such listening knows what to do, or knows sometimes that there’s nothing to do except the being present and sharing accompaniment. She listened to me in those months of Mev death pang. She’s listened to hundreds of Bosnian, Somali, Guatemalan, Afghan, and Ugandan women. She’d lean forward in her chair as she’s listening and extend her hand to someone who doesn’t believe there’s a way out of hell. She’s given ten thousand hours of her life to this person, then that person, then another person. Andrew Wimmer said he’d go crazy doing for three hours in a single week what she’s been doing since the mid-1980s. She’s assisted people in recovering their some of their humanity after experiencing devastating violence, but she’d say to me, “Marko, it was the Bosnian woman who helped me to stop being a zombie, she gave life to me…”

*Jean founded the Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma.

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