To hold someone else suspended in your consciousness.
Holding them up to the light, not to inspect them, but to imagine on their behalf, their own possible goodness.
To assess their needs, to wonder about their hopes, to spend time wishing for what they wish.
Like a shopkeeper inspecting precious, life-like figurines, one by one, picking them off the shelf, dusting them off, lifting them up, turning them around, imagining their story, then putting them back on the shelf.
To become acquainted with their trajectory and become their champion and advocate.
To choose to align yourself with their best interests, not just in fantasy and recollection, but in real-life action.
I don’t do that enough with my own family members: the act of holding them in mental suspension, frozen in neural carbonate, locked in logical liquid, long enough to attain an empathy-bridge.
I tried that while folding laundry tonight. It was easier with an artefact. Person by person, holding up a sock, a shirt, a pair of undies, a pair of pants, and considering where they find themselves today. Considering the growth curve they’re on. Considering the relationship we are in. Considering what goodness I hope for, for them.
That, I think, is what prayer is for. To develop the mental habits and neural pathways of caring for other people enough to know what they’ll need, so acting to care for them becomes instinctive, and their will becomes our own.