Monday, December 23

A Hard Battle

The past several weeks I've had this recurring thought that there are people out there who are not having a merry Christmas season. It wasn’t just some broad mental statement, I was thinking about specifics: the husband facing single-parenthood as he watches his wife eaten by cancer. The elderly woman who faces Christmas alone because her children are too busy to come home for a visit. The child who wakes up every morning wondering if there will be food to eat. I tried to picture their faces and every time I had that thought, I would say a prayer. A prayer for the hurting, a prayer for the wounded, a prayer for the abused, forgotten and neglected.

Yesterday as I walked through Wal-Mart, my heart feeling so heavy it was like a boulder in my chest, I looked at the faces of the people walking around me. I looked into the eyes of the woman searching for the right spice on the baking aisle, the young couple arguing over what type of greens to buy for their salad, the impatient man wrestling his cart down the aisle, frustrated that he had to wait on the people in front of him. 

And I wondered if they could see me. Did they notice me there, the girl who cried all her make up off in the embrace of a friend, the girl trying desperately to hold it together long enough to make it to the car? Did they notice that my eyes are puffy and bloodshot, burning hot with tears that won’t stop coming to the surface? Probably not. But I noticed them. And I wondered what type of Christmas are they having? Is it the best Christmas they’ve ever had? Or are they just trying to survive until January? Is their heart cracking in their chest and are they wondering if they’ll ever be able to breathe again?

My family has been walking through one of the most difficult trials we've ever experienced. My brother was missing for 3 days. We had suspicions of where he might be, but no concrete evidence. We weren't even sure if he was alive. In the world of CSI and Law & Order, a sister’s gut instincts and a mother’s intuition weren't enough to warrant a search party. So we waited and hoped. We cried and held each other a little closer. We checked our phones a hundred times hoping we just didn’t hear it ring or that the vibration was a text from him, not just another Facebook update. We looked out the window every time we heard a car door hoping it was him. We searched the faces in the cars next to us at the stoplight, hoping to see his blue eyes shining back. (We have since heard from him and he's safe, though we still have a process to walk through as a family.)
So, as I walked through Wal-Mart, I searched their eyes. Were they hurting like I was? And I found that the impatience was melting away. My ingratitude, my frustration, my self-righteousness...what did it matter in the face of human suffering? What purpose did it serve when the people next to me were fighting their own hard battles? Next to me were people, the walking wounded. How could I turn and add to their pain?

We talk about Christmas as the season of perpetual hope, love, mercy, kindness and generosity. And yet you hear people snapping at each other in the check out lines, cutting one another off in traffic, condescending looks thrown at the cashier who can't keep up with the rush, hateful responses to Facebook or Twitter posts. Friends, please. Let's be kind to one another. Let's choose to handle one another with the care we reserve for the frailest members of society. Let's treat every human being we come in contact with as if they are fighting the hardest battle of their lives and won't survive without our support. Let's make the choice that we're willing to walk through hell and back to protect their hearts and preserve their dignity because they are fellow travelers in this journey. She's not just a cashier, he's not just some homeless guy and they're not just some faceless being on the other side of a computer screen; they are human beings. And they desperately need our kindness, even if they don't know how to ask for it. 

Choose kindness.


No comments: