Once there was a woman who was very ill. In fact, she had been told she was dying by many experts. Being a private person and one who didn't want to burden others with her sorrows, she moved forward in her life keeping this information to herself. She had good days and she had bad days, but no matter what, kept just kept moving forward.
People saw this woman on her difficult days. To some it was obvious that she had a heavy burden to bear and while they didn't fully understand what she was going through, they supported her, prayed for her and when they could find a way without intruding, they helped her.
Still others also saw this woman, but they didn't see her burden. Instead, they saw her silent some days, perceived unfriendliness when she was merely too weak to fully continue her facade and they judged. They decided she was unkind, selfish. They talked about her behind her back and about the fools who were supporting such a terrible person. They were not kind in her time of need.
Many months later this woman's illness became known to everyone. Those who had supported her finally understood and their hearts opened to her even more.
Some of the people who had ridiculed her behind closed doors had a change of heart and also supported this woman.
But, others who were perhaps dealing with feelings of insecurity or pride or other feelings of inadequacy continued to mock this woman who was fighting for her life.
Eventually this woman miraculously healed. But, something even more wonderful happened. While her body was healed, her heart had opened and expanded. She now understood some very important truths about people around her.
She saw those who had supported her from the start and she was grateful.
She saw those who were her friends when they understood her condition and instead of judging their lack of loyalty at first, she was grateful for the softening of their hearts and considered them friends.
But the third group, those who did nothing to help her... she loved them most of all because she understood they were the ones now dying. They had taken a bitter poison of hatred, jealousy and self-loathing and while it was not a physical death, if they were not healed they would surely die a spiritual death. Having once been sick, she chose to love those who had not shown her compassion and hope they would heal.
Now, I'm not sure where the story ends there because, honestly, I just wrote it. I don't think it has an ending for some, but when it does end, I hope it is happy for them.
I write this based on a few stories of people I truly love that I have seen fight all sorts of battles over the years. I've learned a few important things from those people and I hope you won't mind if I share them now.
1. Everyone has that moment when they are too tired to do more then put one foot in front of the other and just get through the day. If we are lucky, when our day comes we will be surrounded by those who don't understand what we're going through, but they'll help us get through anyhow.
2. We have a choice when someone isn't putting their best foot forward with us. We can react to what we perceive as negativity. Truly, that is often easier and a lot of people wouldn't blame us. However, there is a better road to take. We can act instead with love and compassion. We can choose not to take it personally and we can treat them with the kindness we hope others will grant us when we trample around in our less than best.
3. Everyone's crisis is different. Some will have physical trials and others financial. In my opinion, some of the hardest (partially because they are nearly always invisible) are the emotional crisis. Just because we can't see what is pulling someone down doesn't give us an excuse to yank them down further. Even if they may not notice it, we can and should still try to lift them up.
4. If we make a mistake and we judge someone unfairly, we have the agency to change our mind and our behavior. Sometimes the best two words are, "I'm sorry." Don't hold onto a grudge, particularly when someone didn't mean to offend you. I can promise you, it is rare that someone is actually trying to offend. They're usually just bogged down by their own troubles and you are collateral damage. Again, we can react to the unintended offense or we can act and show love when it is truly needed most.
5. Some may call you foolish, but the ones that matter (God if you believe, yourself no matter what) will always be proud that you chose kindness when that person was not acting like a person deserving of it. Choosing to treat others better than they treated you will never be the wrong thing to do. This doesn't mean you are a doormat and if someone mistreats you I personally think it is always a good idea to contact that person and clear the air if you can. But once you do, let it go and show them more love than you did before so they know you care. You can be assertive and still be kind.
I think sometimes we are all dying in one way or another and we need so very badly for others to understand without knowing the details. I have spent some time wondering if I do that enough. I try to, but is there more compassion I can show, more kindness I can spread when others just don't have it in them to reciprocate. I don't know about any of you, but this is something I need to really think more about.
I am reminded of one of my very favorite talks I've ever heard. It is about the Laborers in the Vineyard. No matter your personal faith, please read. I think there is something in there for everyone, you just need to find it! (Click HERE)
My favorite quote in that talk is, "Be kind and be grateful that God is kind. It is a happy way to live."
It really is.