Why will there be restlessness within our hearts this Thanksgiving?

Why will there be restlessness within our hearts this Thanksgiving?

Compassion is sometimes a fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside someone else’s skin.  It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too. ~Frederick Buechner

This past weekend we were invited to do two book signings for our book-Someone To Tell It To: Sharing Life’s Journey.  Truth be told, we didn’t sell enough books to move us onto the New York Times Bestseller list.  Oh well, that’s not always going to happen (or ever, maybe :).  But that’s ok.

What is more important is something else that happened during each of those signings–and that has happened at every single other signing that we have done since our book came out.  That is the people who come up to us to tell us their stories, sharing their pain and sorrows, their brokenness and fears, expressing their need to ‘tell it to’ someone who will listen and care.

A husband at home with brain cancer.  A son who died in an auto accident in the midst of the holidays.  A debilitating disease that changed a life forever.  A child who did prison time because of a severe drug addiction.  A teacher’s deep frustration with the abuse seen in the children she teaches.

We know that the surface has barely been scratched with them, that there is still so much more to be said.

Their vulnerability fills us with awe–awe that such hurt exists so commonly around each of us, awe that so many live with such pain right under the surface, awe that as the holidays begin so many are dreading them for the difficult memories and longings they evoke.

Even wishing some of them a “Happy Thanksgiving” is a risk.  We’d like to think that we are being thoughtful and kind.  But for too many of them there is not much happiness in their hearts.  There is not much for which they can feel ‘thankful’ for right now.  To them its not the “most wonderful time of year”, but the start of a season of profound loneliness, darkness and regret.

It’s statements such as this one that we receive almost daily that remind us of this:

But now it is time for the holidays again.  Painful, painful holidays.  I will not see my children or my grandchildren at all and that is hurting me terribly.  

To be conduits for others to share the experiences that burden them the most is an awe-inspiring privilege.  In the sense that we can be channels of release and relief, of the beginnings of healing and wholeness, we have been given a sacred, holy responsibility.

On this day and in this season, we are grateful for a God of love who gives us the gifts of compassionate presence and listening.  Those gifts offer, in our humblest human way, the reminder to others that there are people who do care about their pain and that no one needs to go through the darkness alone.

We are very grateful, too, for all those who support  our efforts with their monetary gifts and their prayers.  Those who help us to offer care and solace to those who cannot afford care on their own.  As this holiday season officially begins, we pray for more and more compassionate people to support our work so that this mission may grow and grow.

We know that there are countless others out there who need to tell their stories, who need to unburden themselves, who need to know that they are not alone, who need to feel valued and loved, who need to enjoy the holidays perhaps in a way they have never enjoyed them before.

Above all else, we are grateful for the stories we hear, those sacred expressions of intimacy and vulnerability that speak to the essence of life and of love.

It is humbling to us that we are in the business of “compassionate presence and listening” at all.  Its humbling to be intimately aware that so many people don’t have others “to tell it to” in their lives.  It breaks our hearts.

This season of the year is, for both of us, our favorite time of the year.  We love the music and the lights, the opportunities to give and receive meaningful gifts, and above all else, what this season represents–the promise of and striving for greater hope, true joy, abundant love, abiding peace.  We are very grateful for all of it, the wonder and the messiness of it all.

Yet, at this seasons begins, there is a restlessness within our own hearts because we know that so many others do not, cannot and will not enjoy this season as we certainly will.  Until there is peace and joy in all of us, there will never be complete peace and joy in each of us either.

We hope and pray that all of us will spend real time, every day–starting even RIGHT NOW–reflecting on that reality this holiday season.  We encourage you to feel the weight of others’ disappointment and loneliness, to live is somebody else’s skin in some way that will lead us to be more gracious, more patient, more sensitive to the very real lives of those around us.

 

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