I have a seemingly inborn compulsion. As far back as I can remember, I can’t help wanting to reach out to people I encounter whom I sense to be in difficulty or in suffering.
They can be people who do not ask me for help. Sometimes, when I first encounter them, they may even be in denial of their pain. For some reason, and I don’t know why, I am drawn to these people… people whom I sense are in need. They seem so trapped, so lonely, so lost. And I don’t know why, but I just have an overwhelming desire to try and do something for them.
It isn’t because I am noble, or because I feel a sense of duty. Neither is it because I believe I have the answers to their problems, for often I do not know what their problems are. I never know what may happen if I reached out… if I would be rebuffed, if I would get into trouble, or if I might make things worse for them. While I am a cautious person in many areas, this is one situation where I would always take a leap of faith because I just feel the need to reach out and let them know they are not alone.
On a couple of occasions in my life, I over-reached in my zealousness and hurt myself. That didn’t stop me. But then one day, the consequence of my foolhardiness extended beyond myself and that marked the beginning of a marvelous journey of self-discovery and understanding. It was that journey that led me eventually to understand the power that silence and inaction – traits I long associated with impotence and cowardice – could have.
I didn’t always reach out. Sometimes, when it was with someone I didn’t quite know how to reach out to, I did the only thing I could do other than pray – continue to be in their life and know that if someday I’m called to do more, I would. For these people, I often wished that I could tell them that they were not alone. Something in the old me could never bear the thought that people had to suffer alone.
But that’s not who I am anymore. I understand now why we all have to walk certain stretches of life’s journey alone. It is because the quest for wisdom requires it. And while I don’t know why we sometimes have to bear such heavy burdens that often seem unjust for us to bear, I now know that the most important question is not ‘why?’. The most important question is ‘how?’. How can we make the most of what we are given? How can we transform a cross into grace? How, when the hurts come heavier, can we make our hearts even bigger to absorb, forgive and transcend them?
I continue to see hurt and suffering around me… even among those who have not spoken of their hurt to me. I cannot be unmoved by their pain, and sometimes I still wish I could do something for them. But God has finally given me the grace I need to hold back in the knowledge that in doing nothing, I could be doing the most I can for them. I can watch from the side and pray that they will bravely take up their crosses and earn their own medals of courage.
For I have deep faith that even if I can’t tell them so, they are not alone. One who loves them infinitely more than I do walks with them and perhaps one day, when they are alone in the desert or in the deep woods, they will recognize Him. Even if they do not, they will still never be alone.
Who would have thought that one day I would learn that remaining silent could be more an act of love than reaching out?
Lord, You know who they are that I am thinking of. I pray that they will never shirk from the challenges in their life, and that the day will come soon that they recognize Your loving embrace and the truth that their destiny lies beyond the joy and sorrow of this worldly life.