I watched a movie recently. A young man whose mother was in her final stages of cancer lamented to his friend, “This is the kind of thing that happens to other people.” His friend responded, “To me, you are other people.”
It is so easy to think that bad things happen only to other people. Divorces, death, disabling car accidents, drug addiction, alcoholism, a home destroyed by fire, and the list goes on. We think to ourselves that they probably dropped the ball for a minute and that’s why something bad happened to them. We may foolishly think that we will be more mindful of our marriages. We will stay on top of preventative health. We will be defensive drivers. We will be hyper aware of the dangers of drugs and alcohol and never let ourselves get that far. We will make sure to never leave a candle burning while out of a room.
It is so easy to think these things happen to other people. As a result, it is easy to have a momentary sorrow for another’s misfortune but then we go about our lives. How we choose to respond to another’s sorrow shows us who we are. We don’t need someone to tell us if we are being Jesus’ hands and feet.
I lost both of my parents in 2008, my brother in 2015, and my son in 2016. I will be honest, before I lost my mom I really had no clue what it felt like to lose someone that close and as a result, I was not Jesus’ hands and feet. As I reflect on why I didn’t go to visitations and funerals, I realize it was because I did not feel that anything I might say or do would do anything to put a salve on their grief. I did not have the confidence and the maturity of spirit to realize that just being present was all that was needed.
Before I was rear ended while sitting at a traffic light on a highway, I didn’t have a clue what chronic pain felt like. I had no idea how it affects all areas of one’s life. Socially, physically, emotionally. I didn’t realize how demoralizing it is to go to doctors trying to get relief without appearing to be drug seeking. I didn’t know how comforting a meal delivered to a person who had spent all day getting an out patient procedure done could be. The patient may not be up to the meal that night but the caregiver and family need to eat. When someone in the home is down everyone in the house is affected.
There was a point in my life when I thought, ” Why Me?” Anyone who knows me knows what a little girl scout I am. I follow ALL the rules. I never passed a note in class. I never stayed out past curfew. I never went anywhere except where I told my parents I would be. I was a dutiful employee always worried about calling in sick. I have been a dutiful wife and mother. I set my cruise control on the exact speed limit on the interstate. I follow the rules. So Why Me?
Now that I have gone through more life experiences, I think, “Why Not Me?” To the person that is reading this, I am your Other People. I’ll be honest, I am ready for a break.( Side conversation, ” God, I have been learning some lessons, could you give me a minute to digest what is on my plate?”) I have always been compassionate and empathetic to others, but now that I know how unfortunate events have a ripple effect, I am even more compassionate and empathetic. These things don’t just affect the victim or patient, they affect the spouse, the children, extended family, friends, work. When there is tragedy or ongoing stress within a home, it is physically and emotionally draining. That means less time to have fun as a family. That means less time to be with extended family and friends. That means being a little less of yourself at work.
Some of these lessons can only be learned by walking through the fire. Maybe some of these things don’t happen to some people because they are lucky. Maybe they haven’t happened to some people yet. Maybe some people aren’t ready to learn the lesson yet. Baby steps.
We have had so many friends and acquaintances do so many lovely things for us. Too many to list in this post but wow, it is humbling. I have learned a lot about being a friend. One example that I would like to share is about a Christmas card that came a few weeks ago. It was from an online friend. She lives in Canada. We have never met. She enclosed a handwritten note and a plain white envelope inside the card. The note indicated that she, her husband, and four children choose someone to honor at Christmas every year. The mom puts the surprise honor in a white envelope and places it on the Christmas tree. They all open the envelope on Christmas morning to see who the honor and gift goes to that year. She sent me that envelope with a note. This year their white envelope was for my son. A donation was made to the Boys and Girls Club of Canada in memory of my son. A virtual stranger. A virtual friend. WHY ME? How did I get so lucky to meet someone online who could show me such beautiful kindness at a time when I needed it most? Why Me Indeed.
She writes about life, death, grief, and recovery.
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