Last week, I unexpectedly locked eyes with a stranger for a fleeting moment. Not a stranger in the traditional sense that I didn't know this person, but because it's just the way of the world sometimes, this person that used to know the most mundane details of my life no longer knows much beneath the surface.
It sent pangs through my heart and made me start thinking. I have gone through the most painful year of my life. So many unfortunate events all tied into 2011 and 2012. The pain that comes along with some of these things is pain that will never cease.
After months of the most agonizing pain I ever want to experience, I have faced rumors, untruths, heartache, and even kind words from close friends - after a long, hard downward spiral, my parents have split. This isn't a storybook romance that should invite gossip around the town, nor are we storybook characters that can walk away from such tragedy as we transition into new characters and plots. The gossip, the fact that people are too proud to step back from their own lives to confront negativity and just make sure someone is okay, the idea that it's a priority of anyone's to walk around and profess the latest gossip in public arenas? It doesn't sit well with me. Gossiping is an evil outlet for shallow and hurtful words. The likelihood that you have no business discussing something that doesn't directly pertain to your life is 100% - you don't know the whole story, and that's probably for a reason.
With Clay's horrific death and this stranger encounter, it got my wheels spinning so fast, I became emotionally invested in more than I bargained for - quite philosophically minded about the most inner workings of life.
My little brother was so torn up about recollections of various incidents in Clay's life in which people weren't nice to him. I know that Clay isn't the exception - there are mean people everywhere. It's unfortunate, but I have been guilty of being short, and so has everyone else. Thankfully, I am not one to bully and don't live my life on highs and lows based on the way I make others feel about themselves in a negative light. However - I am very guilty of being so wrapped up in my own little world that I often overlook potential heartache, pain, and even joy that lies beside me in someone else's life. It's so selfish. I can think of so many times in the past year where I would have given anything for someone's shoulder to cry on - and the people that I would have assumed to have come running failed me.
The pain in my own life has opened my eyes to look for sadness around me. How many people do you walk by every single day that are so wrapped up in emotional turmoil they are just going through the motions. Do you know how much it would mean to someone like this to have a smile flashed, a door held open, or a coffee purchased for them? How about a phone call or a message to a friend to let them know you are thinking of them? Life is too short to walk through - barely trudging through at times - to be mean to others, or to simply not care about others. Your actions and words can make or break someone's day.
I don't tend to use my blog as a soapbox, but this is something that I am so fiercely passionate about, especially given the recent events in my life, I encourage you to go out of your way to make those around you feel loved, even if they are strangers. The pain or emotions surrounding a friend or a stranger may be unknown, but an act done out of love will never be forgotten. Step back from the things in your own life to gain some insight in your perceptions of others. And the people that seem hardest to show appreciation for, give little thanks to, and be nice in general are likely those that need it the very most. I can promise you that removing yourself from selfishness and attempting to be there for people you know and complete strangers alike will not be something you ever regret.
As you begin to ponder the emotions around you, think about the way you make others feel even when they cannot see you talking about them or discussing very intimate details of their life. As precursors of gossiping conversation come over your lips, ask yourself if you would want others to treat you in such a way - like a character in a novel rather than an actual life. Instead of gossiping, maybe you should tend to that person in a loving way, even when they are the least lovable. That's what Jesus does for you and me - it's the least we could do to spread the love.
It's intimidating to officially out this horrible family event. It's almost like I have cemented the reality of such a tragedy by actually writing about it. I have become a statistic - a child from a split family. I know about the things said in the context of divorce, I know there are judgements made, I know there are statistics that go against my own marriage and well being because of this. Partly, I am angry, but mostly I am sad. Mourning for the things lost, pining for the things and normalcy I used to have in my life, and wondering why this happened to me. But as always, He has used it for good. Without this, I would likely still be carrying along in my selfish world, so wrapped up in the concerns in my own life that I hardly have a second thought for those around me. A new appreciation for the short length of life, the greatness of love, and a renewed sense of strength.
And even with so much heartache - I am thankful for I am blessed beyond measure...with friends that do care, family to pick me up and carry me, children that make me laugh harder than I have ever laughed before, and God to shove me along when I need it, and for bringing so many important things to light in my life.