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Seeing and Ripples

Do you ever despair at the events in the world we live in? Do you wonder where kindness and love have gone? I don’t watch the nightly news anymore. The negativity and hopelessness portrayed daily just increases my anxiety and depression.

But in the last few weeks, I have had my eyes opened to what I can do to better the world I am a part of. I can’t make the entire world better. But I can help improve the world I touch.

Improvement comes by seeing people again. We rush in our busy lives past hurting people desperate for someone to see them, to notice their pain, to acknowledge their existence. We might say a quick prayer as we rush by, and that’s good, but we keep going and move on to the next busy thing on our list.

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Recently, I had a conversation with my sister who is gifted at seeing people. She was in the hospital after a tremendously difficult and painful surgery, barely able to walk due to weakness and pain. I asked her how the staff was treating her. She responded in her fragile voice that she felt bad for the nurses. The hospital was short staffed, and they were having to work double shifts. She could see their frustration and exhaustion on their faces and in their voices. While they helped her, she was trying to bring some joy to their lives by how she treated them. She was kind, made jokes so they could at least smile, and thanked them for their help. And she did it consistently for her week’s stay.

I am sure she left that hospital ward with nurses appreciating her as a patient and a person. She brought some sunshine into a hurting place.

I used to be like my sister. I used to see people and go out of my way to help them have a better day in some way. Life got in the way, as it does when we get too busy and too stressed, when we don’t intentionally take the time to see. I rush from place to place. It’s not that I live in my own world all the time. I help family. I help friends. I help at church. But in my busyness, and in my stress, I don’t see the pain in people’s faces anymore. I’m so focused on my next thing and on my own pain and stress that I’m missing life around me.

I read recently in a book about seeing people. And shortly after that, I listened to my sister talk about the nurses. I started taking stock of how I had seen people in the past. I used to send cards almost weekly to different people who were hurting in some way. I used to take a meal to someone who needed one. I used to call and encourage people who needed encouragement.

Seeing people helped me and it helped them. Somewhere along the way, I lost that seeing and the acting out of the seeing.

I can’t solve everyone’s problems. I probably can’t solve anyone’s problem, really. I can’t take away a friend’s cancer. I can’t bring back a lost loved one. I can’t make a hurting child’s world perfect. I can’t undo a car accident or the injuries that came from it. I can’t undo a school shooting.

I can do something for each of these though. I can reach out. I can listen. I can hear and see their pain. I can acknowledge that life isn’t good for them right now. I can let them know they don’t have to go through this trial alone. It might be a simple card from a stranger. Or a phone call to a friend. Or a financial gift to help with a burial. Even a simple smile, eye contact, and “thank you” can go a long way toward improving someone’s day.  I can offer hope in a hurting world. I can offer a bit of myself by seeing pain in someone else’s eyes and choosing to offer comfort instead of ignoring it.

That is how we can all improve the part of the world that we touch. We can show our love to the hurting and to the unseen in the city we live in. Face it, every single one of us has pain we are living with. Every single one of us could use hope. The cashier at Wal-Mart, the person next to you on the bus, the student who sits by you in class, we all can touch someone in our world for good.

Look around. Can you see at least one person who is not smiling, who has lost hope, who is obviously hurting, and can you brighten their day today? And can you see someone tomorrow and brighten their day? Be a ray of sunshine in a very dark world. Be the good. It will help you and it will help them and it will help your part of the world. Ripples in the tide start with one rock. Be the rock. Throw yourself into life by seeing people if you are not already doing so. I am going to.

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