Burden So Big
She walked across the parking lot with some strained effort. As Michelle and I sat and talked casually, this woman, who reminded me of my mother, approached the curb. Her husband walked ahead and cleared the concrete parking blockade with ease, but she did not. She failed to see the obstacle, and though she tried to gain her balance, she fell forward on her knee and wrist.
It was predictable. I knew it was coming. Before she hit the ground, I had passed her husband and said, “over here.”
While standing over her, I asked if she was alright. She had skinned her knee. Her first words were directed at the man that had not noticed her falling. “Grab my purse.”
She held her hand out to me and I extended an offer of help. I pulled her up as her husband pushed from behind. Something that my father and I did for my mother dozens of times, however, this time, with different eyes staring into mine. In the middle of a global pandemic, my hand rested lightly on her shoulder, and we assessed her ability to walk.
The older man grabbed her arm and she hobbled into the chicken wing place where we my wife and I had been waiting to be seated. Nothing more was said, but a feeling of empathy welled up inside me. Then it happened.
I convinced myself that there was nothing more I could do. I convinced myself that some people fall. My mind, and my conversation, turned to brighter things. I caught myself, thinking positively about other positive events in my life, and in the world.
Nothing about what my mind turned towards was untrue. This woman did fall, and I did help her stand, but there was little worry. There was little thought for how she would feel in the morning. We met and we departed.
Later that evening, as I sat outside my backdoor meditating, the clumsy woman reentered my mind. I wondered why the universe allowed me to watch her fall in the first place, and now I wondered why the universe allowed her to return to my thoughts. Perhaps I attribute too much to the universe, but nothing about the situation was pleasing to me. Not on it first happening, nor on the remembering of the event.
My thirteen year old son pokes fun at me for seeing the positive side of things. My wife believes I have taught her to be more grateful in tough situations. This blog is about gratitude, grace, and kindness. Love, oneness, and our being connected to Source and others. Even, in some cases, changing the way we see things so that what we see is ultimate good.
But, when I thought of the woman that reminded me of my mother (now deceased), all I could do was weep. I wept for her and for a weary world. I wept for victims of violence and for creators of control. As tears rolled down my face, I tried to come to grips with the fact, that sometimes, things just suck.
While I considered such things, I was distracted by moths and gnats. As I gathered the courage to complain, lights at the neighbor’s house flickered. Some unknown bug tickled the back of my neck. The music stopped playing through my headphones.
What I realized, is that I had noticed tragedy. I had experienced the suffering of others and I was taking it into myself. After sending good vibes to the unnamed lady and her husband, and after speaking love into the situation, I dried up my face. It is important to emote. This is what I did, perhaps for the condition of the world, but most likely for my missing my mother. Perhaps for what the world has become, but most likely for the feeling of helplessness as I watched her fall.
There is a flaw in the power of positive thinking. It is that we as humans, will from time to time, notice things for which we cannot be positive. Rather than ignore them, or reserve judgement, we must take them in and grieve. If we do not, we are left with feeling guilty for our not feeling great all of the time.
While we express gratitude for what we have, it is not for us to assess another’s situation and offer gratitude. It does little good to tell a woman who has just fallen, that life is good. It does little good to feel charitable with having helped her up. Sometimes, we just need to weep for the world and situations. Sometimes our ability to see things positively just is not there.
When we are done, we dry our face, and say to the Creator, as did St. Francis,
“Make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. And where there is sadness, joy. May I not seek so much to be consoled as to console, not so much to be understood as to understand, not so much to be loved as to love.”
And according to St. Francis, this is the way to eternal life.
I am no expert on life eternal, but what I do know is this. If we weep for the world it is because the world needs a good weeping. If we celebrate the world, it is because there is good reason to celebrate. At once, we might weep, and at the same instance, we might celebrate.
In a world full of those selling magic beans, publishing manuals on manifestation, and preaching spiritual elitism. In a world full of greed, corruption, and manipulation. While those who gain from the hatred, the misinformation, and the confusion of it all, busy themselves with distraction, we must interpret events for ourselves.
All the while, small flowers of hope bloom through cracks in city streets.
The reason it is that in giving we receive, is not a secret, like “The Secret” states. They miss the point entirely. The universe returns to us what we are, not what we visualize. Want to be forgiven? Forgive. Want to find peace? Be peaceful. Want to experience kindness in large things? Offer kindness in even the small things.
And go ahead and cry every now and then. We need that also.