I was Standing in line in the hospital cafeteria.
Behind me was an old man unsteady on his feet rifling through his change purse while a slice of pizza teetered on his walker. He asked the cashier how much the slice was, and realized he didn’t have enough. I told him I wanted to buy it for him and he looked at me with his ancient eyes and beautifully wrinkled face and he asked
“are you rich?”
I looked down at his frail little frame wondering what burden brought him here.
I couldn’t help him with his pain, but I could help him with his lunch.
So I smiled and said
“Today I am”.
I had learned a secret.
There is an unspoken wisdom that lies not only on the far side of our pain,
but can also be experienced on the far side of someone else’s pain.
Something mystical can happen in the presence of burden and sorrow.
When your desire to stay overrules your desire to leave.
There is a breakthrough.
At this point something is shared.
a strange transaction begins to take place.
Offering our helplessness to help,
and getting past the thought that only the professionals can do anything.
I am a professional.
I am a professional human.
I should be I have been doing human for 45 years.
There is no way around pain, only through it.
My culture has lied to me,
because the short cuts it offers don’t take me to the same destination—a life unafraid.
Life should be more than the avoidance of pain.
True living happens not without suffering but in spite of it.
Sometimes being with others in their anguish is a medicine,
that often heals those unaware of any affliction.
Most often the best way to deal with any burden is to deal with it together.
Unfortunately this can be more expensive.
It will cost our time, and our energy–compassion and empathy are exhausting.
If only we knew that caring for someone who suffers from depression
or chronic illness isn’t an expense but is instead an investment.
If only we knew that the investment isn’t only in their life but in ours as well—hospitals would be overrun with volunteers.
When my wife was hospitalized in extreme pain I was there trying so hard to find ways to comfort her. At one point she looked up and asked
“Where is God at times like this?”
Tearing up I reached for a cloth, dipped it in ice water and gently placed it on her forehead,
“he is right here, placing this cloth on your forehead” I sobbed.
She looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said,
“you’re right, here he is”.
If she only knew that that afternoon, she was the saviour of my hardened heart.