Monday, September 25, 2017

Modern Good Samaritan

We all know the story of the good Samaritan.  He was the one who stopped to help a man who had been beaten, robbed and left on the side of the road to die.  People who ought to have stopped to help crossed to the other side of the road and kept going.  The good Samaritan, whose nation was not friendly with the beaten man's, stopped to help.  I have always thought that had it been me walking down the road, I would have stopped to help.  Yesterday at church we discussed this bible story, and ways that it applies to us in these modern days.  As I contemplated in what ways I figuratively cross the road in our modern world, it was startling for me to realize that I have indeed been guilty of crossing to the other side of the road many times.

For example, in the past people who looked very different from me made me uncomfortable, so I would carefully avoid them.  People who looked like they did drugs, or had a myriad of tattoos, or seemed very different than me would make me uncomfortable and this caused me to figuratively cross the road to the other side.  I basically avoided eye contact and pretended they were not there.  This made me feel more comfortable  This discomfort and behavior eventually changed for me when I became acquainted with clients from a drug and alcohol rehab center and started speaking at their facility as a guest speaker.  I learned that they are wonderful people who are literally fighting for their lives. They are truly heroes.   Every once in a while one of them will thank me for my support of them, and tell me that normally "people like me" don't talk to "people like them".  Most people cross the road.

Another example: My daughter needed to be pushed from class to class at the university she attends this past week because it was so painful for her to walk.  After one day in a wheelchair she expressed strongly that she never wanted to ride in a wheelchair again.  She said that she felt invisible.  No one looked at her or talked to her unless she put forth the first effort.  She said it was a real ding to her self esteem.  She hated the way being ignored felt.  (I know this is not always true.  I have heard from quite a lot of people who have felt treated very kindly in a wheelchair. I have also talked to some who had my daughter's experience.)  As we talked about why people would act this way, we decided that they were probably trying to be kind by not staring, or that they felt uncomfortable.  The results were that she felt ignored and invisible.  I thought back to my own actions when I have seen someone in a wheelchair, or in any other unusual circumstance, and I realized that I have been guilty of the same behavior.  I have been uncomfortable and figuratively crossed the road.

One last example: Another daughter of mine lives in a community where virtually everyone around her prescribes to the predominant religion of the area.  She does not.  As a result she finds that people sometimes seem to mistrust her and her children, or treat her differently.  She at times has felt ostracized or left out in her community.  I have heard other people say that people won't let their children play together.  This is also crossing the road.

I feel that in general most people are good.  We have a desire to love, to be kind, to do good.  When someone is physically hurt most would rush to help.  It is the invisible wounds in our day and age that cause us to sometimes cross the road.  I consider myself a very loving person who wants to be kind to everyone. I painfully acknowledge that I have also had times when I let fear or discomfort make my decisions, causing me to figuratively cross the road.  (Which is different from an impression that you are not safe and need to leave.)  This was a huge and humbling "aha" moment for me.    I have been guilty of crossing the road at times instead of stopping to help, giving eye contact, or even just smiling and saying hi.  These are the simple gestures that bind wounds and make a positive difference.  

I am going to work very hard to reach out to all those I used to cross the road with.  I want to be a good Samaritan.

I invite you to spend a few minutes contemplating how you might be figuratively crossing the road, and what wounds you might bind up if you did something differently, and what positive difference that would make in many tiny ways in the lives of others.  

I invite us all to be good Samaritans.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Unseen Pain

Last week I wrote about my 18-year-old daughter and the shocking challenges she is facing as well as her attitude about those challenges.  I thought of her and of many of us today as I was looking at this beautiful hanging plant on my back deck.  It is thriving and beautiful.....or so it would seem.  As I turned the plant to admire the side that is not visible from where it hangs, I was startled to discover that the other side of this beautiful hanging pot looks nothing like the front.  Instead it is sparse and dead-looking in places.
As I explored this startling discovery further I realized that the pot is hanging slightly at an angle, and the water it has been getting every day has been going mostly to the front of the pot, leaving the back of the pot quite dry, hence the difference.

I can think of quite a few analogies about this pot, but today I was thinking about my daughter, and about you, and challenges we all face in life.  My daughter's challenges are quite obvious now, though she was able to hide them for many months, just like my pot.  She truly has a beautiful spirit about her, and that is what people see, but she is struggling in ways no one knows.  I thought about all the people around us who have heartache and challenges that are not seen, that are not visible.  Many people present a beautiful and healthy front, while struggling and dying in the unseen recesses of their lives.  I suppose this is human nature.

Henry B. Eyring passed on some profound advice:  “When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.”  

It is easy to see the sparse and dead-looking parts of our own lives, but only the beautiful and thriving parts of other people's lives.  I think we all have beauty, and we also all have sparse and dead-looking spots that are the unseen challenges and heartache in our lives.  

What if you and I were to take Henry B. Eyring's advise and treated each other as though they needed our love, caring and watering?  Without knowing the pot was a little off balance, maybe we could love each other well enough to reach even the dry and painful parts.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Beautiful Mind

I have written about my 18-year-old daughter before.  She has a debilitating and still-undiagnosed illness that has affected her joints.  Her mobility has steadily decreased while her pain has steadily and gradually increased.  Nine months ago she was a normal healthy teenager.  Today she walks with a cane most of the time, and has a handicapped sticker.  We are still looking for answers. yet she has somehow miraculously kept a positive attitude.  She recently wrote a paper entitled "Limit Without Limits" about her experience with this illness for her English class at UVU.  I wanted to share part of it with you:

"In December of 2016...the pain seemed to creep through my body to every single one of my joints. Not only did the issue spread, but the level of pain became bigger and the intensity increased greatly. The boulder (of pain) that I was dragging behind me with my hand had caught a grasp of all of my limbs, and the boulder started growing larger and larger. It felt bigger than me. Each week was worse than the last. The next week would be even worse. This was, and still is, continuing at a downward slope with no maneuvering up or leveling out.

It’s different now when I try to walk into a room.  I am having a hard time standing or walking because my knees or ankles are so inflamed. Walking into a room includes turning a door handle. That is highly difficult/painful some days for me, especially if it’s one of those days that my hands are unable to straighten out because of the pain. If I have to lift something, screw a lid off, open a fridge, cut cheese, pour milk, etc., mostly it is too painful for me even to think about doing. If there are stairs I have to go up them 5 minutes before everyone else to get to the top at the same time they do. I find this to be humorous because I look like a 90 year old woman in a 18 year old body. I also have a cane that I sometimes bring that helps me.

One of the worst things about walking into a room with people inside is that nobody knows. I can’t open the fridge, and nobody understands why, or they wouldn’t even think of why my hands looks the way they do when I try to lift food to my mouth because I have mastered hiding my pain, or they just don’t care. Some of my family members just found out the other day. Oh, but the people who do know are the doctors that see me so much. They know that I’m in pain, but they don’t know why, what’s causing it, or how to decrease the pain. Medication has never worked on me.

It feels a little odd being in the shaded area of the unknown for my body. But only my body is in the unknown. I’ve learned to pull my mind from that area and have accepted the situation. I don’t have control of my body being stuck. So why would I let my mind, the only thing I can fully control, be stuck too?

People could say that it is limiting. And physically, it is. Sometimes my body can't do even necessary basic tasks. But, there is a huge lesson that I’ve learned with this ongoing experience. Even though my body is limited… My mind is not. And that is where existence changes from just survival to really living. It starts with a beautiful mind. It has transformed my mind into different eyes that never sleep. They have a nature now to gathering beautiful things and learn to value everything, even the ugly. It’s taught me that there is beauty in hideousness, and allowed me to consciously see that and learn from the lesson or story that it tells. It has shown me deep gratitude for everything, a true optimistic outlook, a sincere love for everything. This has increased my mind's strength even if my body is weak, taught me so much care for other people, taught me patience (started with waiting for answers, then turned to more) with time or without time.

Now I see the things which I can control in my life, and I can completely grasp my mind to its fullest with the greatest of light. And it’s fullest has no limit. Which means, while my body continuously gets worse, my mind will continuously get further and further into happiness. This experience has increased my quality of life intensely. This has, and always will, change my life forever. "

The lessons I am learning from watching this child are incredible.  It is SO, SO difficult to watch a child in pain and be helpless to give relief.  I have learned to give my heartache to God, and I am trying to embrace my daughter's attitude in seeing the good all around me, and in being happy no matter the circumstance.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Hike of a Lifetime

A few weeks ago I went to Yosemite National Park in California.  One of the days we were there my son and I climbed the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls.  It was 1,000 feet climb in 1.6 miles --very steep.  After climbing and resting, and climbing and resting, I was quite dismayed to see a stretch ahead of decline.  Although it would be refreshing to go downhill for a bit and catch my breath, I had worked very hard to get to where I was, and I knew any amount of downhill I went would have to be re-climbed in the next section as well as additional feet.  I was okay with walking on level ground, but didn't want to lose the ground I had gained.  Over the course of the rest of the climb there were several areas where we went downhill.  Each time it was a nice change, but we had to re-climb it in the next section.  We finally did reach the stunning Vernal falls, and it was truly worth all the hard work to get there.

I have been mulling over how life is like hiking.  There are varying degrees of uphill climbing and pushing toward what we want in life followed by times of decline.  We work hard to get to a certain point, but then we sometimes end up going downhill for a bit although we don't want to and don't intent to.  For example, we enjoy a period of good health, and then get sick and have to re-build our stamina.  Or we have steady success on a weight loss goal.....until the holidays come, and we must start again.  Or we are going along working and growing emotionally when something bad happens that sends us into a temporary tailspin.  Eventually we get our bearings back,  regain our lost ground and we keep going......and the point is to keep going.  The reward we are pushing toward is definitely worth it.

I guess we cannot always climb steadily upward in life without stopping or occasionally going downhill, or at least most of us can't.  We should expect to have an occasional period of decline here and there.  It's just part of life.  No need to beat ourselves up over it.  Just get rested and keep going!