People have serious shit happen to them. Moments, even a single moment can change every conceivable aspect of who we become. Awful things that others might notice, but often in a glazed unfocused way, like staring at one of those 3-D hidden picture posters. They don't want to see what's right in front of them, so they haze it over. That way they don't have to step out of their comfort zones and do something about it.
To them ignorance is bliss.
But to the person who is trudging through the muck, through the darkness of those moments, this ignorance is just another blow of judgement and malice and shame. When someone who is being hurt looks into the eyes of a friend, a family member, a teacher, a passerby, there is an unspoken, maybe even an unintentional plea there. And if we, the friends or family members or passersby are present enough, still enough in our own minds, we can see it and ask questions and be human to this person who lives among the monsters.
Then ignorance can no longer be claimed.
Then we know, or have a good idea. And if there is a shred of virtue and compassion in our souls, we should do something about it. Reach out. Make waves if necessary. Maybe those waves will shake loose the monsters that live in the depths. And maybe the people stuck down there with them can ride those waves toward the light, toward healing and love.
The older I get the more stories I hear about the evil that is endured by so many every day (and largely overlooked). Friends whose parents were dangerous or neglectful or who made painfully stupid decisions that spilled over onto their kids. Kids suffering bullies. People of all ages withstanding abuse and humiliation. Pain. Poverty. Addiction. Heartache. Shame. And that's to say nothing of my recent visit to Cleveland's Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage where I stood dumbfounded in front of a map that showed the concentration of hate groups still active in the US and where I read through tear-filled eyes the unimaginable horrors of Holocaust survivors. Or the true story the movie Spotlight tells of rampant sexual abuse and cover ups within the Catholic church.
Jesus. It sometimes seems like people are drowning in a sea of monsters.
I think of these things when we sing "This Little Light of Mine" at church. I think about how those of us who have been shielded from the monsters or survived them, how those of us who hold the light of hope and grace and mercy and compassion have an obligation to shine it, to seek out darkness with our lights and blind those @**&%!# monsters with it.
There are endless questions this sparks regarding faith. Like why does suffering happen? Where is God when this is happening to people all over the world?
But then I think he's in me. And he's in you.
And he's trying desperately to work through us. Will we listen? I need to do more, be more proactive in this light-shining business. Because somewhere out in the world there is someone who is waiting for me to do something. To hear their plea. To make some waves. To reach out and help. To shine a light.
A simple everyday way to make this into a habit is to give people a freaking break. Don't be so judgy. That rude clerk at the store or the distracted waitress or that coworker who drives you insane...you don't know what monsters they have fought or are still fighting. Sure, maybe some of them are just jerks. But maybe if you look into their eyes and push aside your judgement, you will see a story there. Maybe a plea. Which is why we should offer kindness always. Offer a closed mouth and an open ear. Offer help if necessary.
Offer your light.
Because if you shine your light, and I shine mine, my kids shine theirs, their friends shine theirs...soon this whole place will be so bright that the monsters won't have anywhere to hide.