There are no adequate words to describe all the different hardships our world has faced in the last year. From the pandemic to politics, they seem to be snowballing and for many, myself included, life is very unnerving at times. When the world is not ok, what do you do? What can you do?
I am in no way downplaying or making light of the problems in our world. I believe wholeheartedly that if we want to see those changes, we must first start in our own homes.
Put Things in Perspective
A father was desperately trying to complete his work from home while also keeping an eye on his 5-year-old son. It seemed that every five minutes his son was interrupting him wanting to play or chat. His father grabbed a magazine, flipped through it, and saw a picture of the earth from space filling the page. He tore it out, and cut it into several pieces making a puzzle. “Son, I have a puzzle for you to work on and I want you to do your best and show me when you were done.” His son happily agreed and began to work on the puzzle. His father, believing he had tasked his son with a fun project that would take more than a few minutes, was dumbfounded when his son cried out proudly “I’m done!” not two minutes later. “Son, that’s amazing! How did you get the world together so quickly? All the continents are in the right places! You did great! But how?…” “Oh, Dad! This was easy!” his son said smiling. “On the other side of the page was a picture of a man. When I put the man together, I put the world together.”
When the world is not ok, we need to begin by making sure our world, and the world of those we love is ok.
“Look At My Face”
In my senior year of high school, the movie “The Sixth Sense” was released. I remember feeling terrified watching it in the big theater. I recently watched it again and I’ll admit it wasn’t quite as scary this time. I did notice something that struck a chord with me. Without spoiling all the details if you haven’t seen it, young Haley Joel Osment plays a boy who has a “sixth sense” that makes him feel like “a freak.” During many of his traumatic encounters with his sense, his mother who does not know about it is there to comfort him. He asks her many times “Are you mad?”… “Do you think I am a freak?” Her response, (which I love) is “Look at my face. Do I look mad? Of course you are not a freak. Come here I love you!” as she embraces him.
What do others see on our faces? Do we tear others down or build them up and encourage them during tough times? While we may be worried or anxious on the inside, we can be purposeful in encouraging our families and being the safe place they can go when they are feeling the craziness of the times.
Gary Chapman, author of “The Five Love Languages For Children” makes a good point. “Even when we do not feel loving, we can speak in a loving tone.” It takes intentionality but when the stresses of the current world make us short and ill-tempered we must be conscious of our tone and the words we use with others. This could also apply to what we type on social media. Are you speaking (or typing) in a loving tone?
Practice Radical Compassion
Finally, do something. When I find myself in a slump or overly stressed, I make a point to do something that will help someone else. Sometimes the “someone else” is me. I shared some of those things here previously. Taking a walk outside, gardening, or doing something that makes me sweat, all help break the cycle of stress. When I know I am not the only one feeling the stress, like everyone in our world right now, I try to do something more outward.
What can you do right now that would bring a smile to someone else’s face? Could you send a text with encouraging words, write a letter, or leave a gift on someone’s doorstep? While we may be limited to how close we can get next to each other, that does not limit our ability to share kindness. Is there a job a neighbor might need help with that you could easily do for them? Could you add some extra tip money to the delivery driver? How about raking leaves for an elderly neighbor or front line worker?
As I sit at my computer writing this, my ten-year-old son just brought me a glass of pomegranate juice with crushed ice to drink. I did not ask for it, but he just did it. He even put it in a very fancy glass! It was a very sweet surprise that brought a smile to my face. (when I tasted the tart juice the smile was tougher but it is the thought that counts right? I usually just add a splash of it to my water!) Simple and unexpected kindnesses can bring great joy!
You will find that doing something to bring joy to others, even if you don’t feel the joy yourself at that moment, usually results in a shift. This shift opens the door for us to make someone else’s world a little more ok, even when the whole world is not. I have dubbed it radical compassion. Radical in a sense that it is unexpected and out of the ordinary and compassion because it is the intent to show love to someone else.
“His Kingdom Is Not In Trouble”
Finally, as a person of faith, I will leave you with this beautiful quote from Emily P. Freeman’s book “The Next Right Thing.” I first heard it on her podcast here and it has calmed my soul many times. I hope it calms yours too.
“I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights. I live in the unshakeable kingdom of God. His Kingdom is not in trouble and neither am I.”
Even when the world is not ok, as believers in Christ we can take heart that God’s Kingdom is and always will be ok.