A short time ago, while having a nice lunch out with my whole family, and since there was so many of us, we had been seated in our own private room inside this beautiful old historic hotel-turned restaurant, I witnessed something. The French doors to our seating area opened to the short staircase that lead to the main floor lobby entrance. I heard a fumble and turned around in my seat to see a young lady trip and stumble down the last few stairs and land awkwardly on the floor in front of us, just outside our table area. She caused us no harm at all, but instinctively, as she gathered herself back to her feet she blurted out, I’m so sorry! to all of us seated, who could only sit there and watch her discomfort unfold. We quickly brushed it off. And to ease her embarrassment, Oh don’t be sorry! You ok? But she quickly darted off, cheeks bright pink, as we sat there kind of half wondering what had just happened, and the other half, instinctively feeling so sorry for her. I almost wanted to go get up and find her, and say how sorry I was that she fell, and that I hoped she is ok, and not to be embarrassed or sorry to us at all! Strange thing when I stop to think about that day. Why was she apologizing to us in that instant? Why was saying sorry to us for her pain, and to total strangers, the first words on her lips as she got back up? Because we had witnessed her being vulnerable, hurt, embarrassed and human? How curious when I take a moment, and think about why we are so quick to hide our hurt as if its a shame. We have all been there, stumbling down the stairs.
So today, to be honest, I am feeling exposed, and a little weary. I shared a painful experience with a loved one, and its hard to feel the eyes of pity one me, by exposing that vulnerability; its as if having just stumbled myself. Also, a bit of a sadness has washed over me upon learning of some tragic news about an old friend. It is not my story to tell, nor do I know much of the details, but she and her young children essentially lost their husband and father, and are now left to pick up the pieces. My heart aches for her. In a strange coincidence, this is actually the second friend this month, who has unexpectedly lost her husband, and is left with her two small children and a broken heart. I am in some sort of denial that the world could be so cruel, twice, to these two young women who have crossed my life. Both are women whom I haven’t had a friendship with in many years, but still know of and care for. That seems to bring me a sadness too. How is it that I should feel or react to these tragedies? My heart hurts terribly for them both, for them all, young babies who will never know their fathers. But what is the appropriate response? Is there one? And so, since I can’t think of the right one, I am here. I am expressing my deepest sympathies to them and to anyone who’s heart may be hurting, here today.
Why does the tragedy of others affect us so? I hardly knew these women as adults; in fact, I didn’t know them. I knew them both only as children ourselves. But I can relate to their pain. Having something happen to you so abruptly that it takes your breath away, and it takes you months, if not years, to regain it; I understand that kind of hurt. I also understand what it feels like to have something occur in your life, and feel, even with all the comforting words, incredibly alone.
I think in times like those, it forces us all to stop and think. Those who hear the news may stop and say a little prayer for them, or offer up a nod to the universe, about just how grateful they are that it was not them to be enduring the heartache. Those going through it might feel lost, and maybe unsure of how to receive the support of those trying to offer it, while trying to come to terms with the fact that this time, it is them. That the prayers of past gratitude did not work this time; heartache found them anyway. Of course, depending on the nature of the tragedy, every person reacts differently, and that is their right.
I would offer this. I think its in these times of sorrow for those around us, we should stop and instead of just finding a moment or two by ourselves to say a little prayer of gratitude for being spared in this instance, and of peace for the hurting who weren’t, it might be a good time to acknowledge something bigger. That any one of us, on any given day, could be standing in the shoes of the one hurting. We all know that there are no guarantees, no certainties. How we handle ourselves today as the passerby, might just be how we are handled someday as the afflicted. Pain is uncomfortable. And for some, comforting is painful. I say, let’s embrace both. Lets find a way to comprehend, and then move forward in the knowledge that we are all at some point, going to endure both. Show kindness. Be gentle. Learn to accept the vulnerability of gratitude and learn to embrace the opportunities to be brave. Experience the pain, be it your own or someone else’s. Connect.
The old adage of Be the change you want to see, may just be the realest thing I can think of today. On the heels of yesterday’s post about MLK and his inspiring words about service, I think today for me, is about how to be of service, no matter the circumstance, we can all do something to be the change. I can’t pick up the phone and reach out to either of these women, I don’t even have their numbers. I can send a message, but that doesn’t seem enough. And I don’t want to dwell on pain, as a really wise friend told me once, “I don’t want to live there.”
So, I think, just like witnessing that young woman who stumbled down the stairs, I can carry their pain in my heart, and use it for good. I can remember exactly what it feels like to be the vulnerable one in times of hurting. I can care sincerely about them by acknowledging their pain and their road to becoming whole again, or a new version of whole. I can lend them my strength and my love by finding people right in front of me, maybe even myself, who I can help. Knowing that they would do the same if it were me. I can send these women uplifting thoughts and healing prayers. and I can focus on making a difference. I don’t know if either of my friends will ever read this, but no matter. You have.
And so, go about your day today finding ways to make a difference in the life of someone you can help. Do it in the honor of someone who’s hurt you may not be able to reach, but in other’s lives that you can certainly touch. You never know when they may have the opportunity to do the same for you.