As a member of the clergy, I have been able to come to the realization that most people deal with a great deal of pain, disappointment, and sorrow in their lives—and yet they still get up, go to work, do what needs to be done, and soldier on in the midst of it. While not everyone, at a precise moment, may not be going through a dark valley, nonetheless, we are surrounded by people who are. Not that you’d know it. Most people keep their troubles to themselves.
One visiting minister to our church several years ago said that, every Sunday morning, on a sixteen person pew, there are at least twelve of those people living in some sort of brokenness at that very moment. That’s a lot of people. He said that most of those people kept their difficulties to themselves and come to church hoping for some sort of answers and looking for the strength to cope and to overcome. Which means, of course, that nearly everyone we encounter is going through some sort of crisis. And we may be among them.
It may be that some of the people we encounter are struggling financially, not knowing how they are going to make ends meet. Others face the prospect of going home to abusive or indifferent spouses. Still others have lost a loved one due to accident, ageing, or disease—or are in the process of doing so. Then there are those who have gone through the trauma of divorce and are raising kids alone or are not being able to see their kids except at limited, prescribed times. There are parents who are deeply concerned about the direction their children are headed. And grandparents who have the same concerns.
It may be that many are struggling with various addictions that rob them of hope, money, self-respect, peace, and a future. Countless people are dealing with handicaps or one sort or the other. Others are being laid off or downsized. Millions are uninsured or underinsured, despite government efforts to the contrary. And, a surprising number of people we encounter are trying to cope with serious physical or mental illnesses.
But, for the most part, we are oblivious to these people and are focused on our own troubles. One enterprising person has started a business in California where people can be hired to listen. These folks are not trained therapists—they are just average people who are paid to simply listen to the customer. One aspect of the business is to offer the services of “walkers,” people who will walk with people and share conversation at the rate of $7.00 per mile. Social media, which seemingly offers the promise of connecting people, actually more often results in increasing the isolation of people as they relate to a screen and not to actual persons.
What the future holds is anybody’s guess. But perhaps one step toward a more positive outcome is simply to be kind. Be kind to the person behind the counter, to the young lady at the fast food drive through, to the server at the restaurant, to the clerk at the supermarket, to those who, by chance, we encounter. Kindness and civility are in short supply in our country. It is entirely probable that we have the ability to bring a small bright moment into the life of a fellow struggler by merely offering a smile and a greeting. Or we can increase their sorrow by being dour, unkind, rude, critical, or complaining.
Nearly everyone we meet is going through a difficult time in one way or another. If we could get out of ourselves for a while and determine to help lift another’s burden—or at least not add to their problems—life might look and feel different at the end of the day. It’s worth a try and it’s just not that hard to do.
David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org