Open your eyes (A lesson learned at Walmart)

It was a typical Saturday morning at Super Wal-Mart. I pushed my shopping cart through the aisles, my emotions near the breaking point as my then-six-week-old baby screamed and my preschooler whined. We’d completely run out of formula and the baby was hungry (hence the incessant crying) and my older daughter was tired (hence the whining) and I was sleep deprived, emotional and hating every moment spent grocery shopping among the throngs of equally grumpy Saturday shoppers.

We turned on to the soft drink aisle. A worker was loading soft drinks onto the shelves. A family pushed their shopping cart by us. The mother caught a glimpse of my baby and the entire family—father, mother and children—had to stop and gush over her. She immediately calmed down, basking in the attention that diverted her from her rumbling tummy.

“How old is she?”

“Six weeks.”

“Oh how precious. Look at those little toes. . . .”

The family moved on. The worker looked at my daughter as we passed him.

 “My wife and I had a two-week-old,” he said quietly. “She died a month ago.”

His last words were so low that I barely caught them. My stressed-out, tired mind didn’t comprehend at first; and while I saw the darkness on his face, it didn’t register with me. What did I do?

I walked on.

It didn’t sink into me what he had said until we were almost on the next aisle. He and his wife had a child that, had she lived, would’ve been the same age as my baby. Had he been looking at my daughter’s plump cheeks, tiny toes, kissable lips, and remembering how his child’s face had looked when she died? Had he wondered what she would have looked like now? Was he near the breaking point, his grief overwhelming him?

I could’ve turned back at that point, expressed my sympathy, patted him on the back, said how sorry I was that they had lost their child. But in my fatigue and agitation, my eyes were closed to his pain.

‎”Make yourself a blessing to someone. Your kind smile or pat on the back just might pull someone back from the edge.” – Carmelia Elliott

A Facebook friend posted this yesterday, and I think it is so true. Our response to others can either yank them back from the edge of despair or fill them with longing to jump off the ledge. A smile brightens; a scowl darkens. A hug comforts; walking past feels like a slap in the face.

The problem I see is that we: A) don’t remember this truth, and B) don’t see the condition of someone else’s heart.

On my own, I’m a self-centered, self-serving creature. My fatigue and depression and to-do lists are urgent; my desire to make it through Super Wal-mart without a meltdown in the cereal aisle is a tyrant that demands full attention. So most of the time, I’m blind to what’s truly important. I don’t see others as God sees them—I’m too busy looking in the mirror to look through the windows into someone else’s soul.

Brandon Heath has a great song that expresses his desire to see others from God’s perspective:

Give me your eyes, Lord, just one second

Give me your eyes that I can see

Everything that I keep missing

Give me your love for humanity

Opening our eyes takes an intentional effort. Honestly, it’s hard to want to be intentional. It takes emotional energy, time and a willingness to put aside my selfishness; sometimes I’m on the edge myself, I’m the one needing hope, and I’m not quite capable of even smiling. I think that’s okay. There’s a time to be comforted:

  •  A couple who has lost a child.
  • A man receiving a pink slip.
  • A woman just released from the psychiatric ward.
  • Even the person who’s having a bummer of a day where she hit the trashcan with her SUV, had the toilet back up, found out she’s got a mouthful of cavities, and realized she forgot to pay the electric bill.

Sometimes life overwhelms us. There’s nothing wrong with focusing energy on grieving—it’s healthy.

 But there’s a time to be the comforter, too. I don’t have to take on the grief of the world; it would overwhelm me to be the shoulder that everyone cries on. Other times, there isn’t the emotional intimacy or even a relationship between us; others closer to the hurting person need to carry more of the burden.

But there’s really no excuse for a reasonably stable person not to extend some sympathy when I see a person in pain. It doesn’t take hours to hug someone, whisper a prayer, smile at a person who looks stressed at how badly his day is going. A mere smile lets others know they aren’t alone in the world and that someone finds them worthwhile to smile at.

I don’t always see others’ pain as blatantly as I did that day in Wal-Mart. But if I open my eyes, let God give me his eyes, I will see opportunities to give hope to another person.

So let’s open our eyes. We might just pull someone back from the edge.

 

Questions for you:

Have you ever been in pain and had someone encourage you with a small gesture of kindness?

Have you ever seen someone in pain and chosen to set aside your selfishness to extend hope to him or her? What made you decide to do that?

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Open your eyes (A lesson learned at Walmart)

  1. I have been in pain and been not only ignored but shunned. I was robbed of all of my money and my car upon moving to Florida. I had decided to move my contracting business there. I went to 7 different Baptist churches and was not only turned away but shunned like I was a pariah. As a christian I felt devastated at other christians ignoring my pain.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

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    1. John,
      I am so sorry to hear how these churches treated you, especially when you were in so much pain. I, too, have been in pain and have felt as though my pain was being ignored. It’s an awful feeling. I hope that you have found at least partial healing from this; my current church has been a godsend in helping to restore my heart. Thank you for sharing. That takes a lot of courage!
      Laura

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  2. Excellent post. I understand how we can be so focused we miss an opportunity to bless someone with a kind word, prayer or encouragement. I have also been on the receiving end of crying out to someone while they walked away, or made a cliche-ish remark.

    Because I have been ignored from time to time, and the few people who chose to respond to me really blessed my heart, God has blessed me to be more sensitive to people in pain. With God’s help I attempt to encourage them with the words He gives me and follow-up, if possible. At any rate, I try to remember to pray for the person and the situation because God is able to do more than I can. 😀

    Thanks and God bless you for this timely reminder.

    Blen

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    1. Blen,
      I’ve been on all sides of this issue: the person in pain, the person who walks away, and the person who encourages (or tries to, at least). I feel like you do; God has allowed those times of hurt to make me more sensitive to those around me. Sometimes, though, I fall flat on my face in the sensitivity department, like I did in this story. Bless you for encouraging others and praying for them. I know God uses those prayers! Laura

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  3. I’ve been on all sides, too. The ignored, the one who does the ignoring, or the one who simply doesn’t notice the problem. My husband has been a good example to me of reaching out to people. No doubt he has been conned a few times by phony sob-stories, but that’s outweighed by knowing he has also helped people with genuine needs.

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    1. Your husband sounds like a great guy. I’m sure that there are people who have been helped tremendously by his willingness to reach out to them. Bless you both!

      Like

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