|Texas from the Amtrak ride I took earlier this month.|
I had a conversation today with a man from my law school class. As I talked with him, I learned that life had been hard for him. Many parts of life had left him rejected. He had not found success in some areas of life that are most basic to happiness; family, work, and religion.
Part of my heart broke for him. Because I've watch my classmates be dismissive of him the past few months. Today was my first real interaction with him. We were working on a school project together. I never realized that there was so much silent sorrow from someone right in my class. I don't think I made his life any easier. But I listened. And it made me realize something. Nothing fantastic. Something I have thought and felt before. I guess I should say it reminded me of something.
Sometimes we get so caught up in our own happiness and survival that we forget to look around for others who might be drowning. Who may be worse off than us. Or maybe who are doing the same as us, but don't have the support structure that we may have. We get caught up and find ourselves saying things like:
- "I feel bad for people who aren't as happy as I am"
- "Those poor people on the planet who will never know how good life is. Sucks for them. Sure makes me grateful I'm not one of them. I'm so glad that's not me."
- "They should've done that differently. Yup, I see them struggling but they wouldn't struggle if they would do it my way."
- "Wow, they're having a hard time. But so am I. And they should really be the one to make efforts to help me out in this hard time."
- "Huh. They're struggling. Well, that's messy. I don't want to get involved. I'll just come around afterwards and show them I care."
- "Well... I don't really approve of how they're handling things. I would do things differently so that means I can't help."
Now, I think I'm guilty of this too. I've been in this Practice Court program for just as long as these students who have been cruel to this man. I've heard of my classmate's tragedies and felt indifferent. Or I've ignored their problems. But this is not right. I am wrong. Those people that were this man's friends? They were wrong.
Do you see how much all those statements focus on ME?
It should go the other way around. It should be about them. Regardless of our opinions on how they handle their problems. And I don't think it takes much. 5 minutes to listen. A hug. Baking cookies with a friend, maybe. But not much.
But it makes the world of difference. I saw it in this man as he walked away this afternoon, after we'd talked for 5 minutes. I noticed he had his bounce back in his walk. I noticed that I felt better. As though somehow our 5 minute conversation had lessened the load of reading I have to do tonight.
All we want in this world, as least from each other, is acceptance. And when we listen and serve, we accept one another. I hope I remember this. So the next time I get the opportunity to judge and walk away that I choose to stay, take 5 minutes, and help in some small way.
If you want to read more about this, Here's a talk that also came to mind for me:
Gifts of Love- Elder Eyring
I love the story of the jar of cherries.