Behind every strong person is a story that gave them no choice.
Each of us is called upon to demonstrate our toughness at one time or another. It is the rare person who can honestly claim to never have encountered daunting moments that almost crushed them. Most of us have found times when we were beaten down and exhausted from the tragedies that we have endured. We have found ways to keep moving forward even as we feel as though we cannot take another step. The human spirit is rather remarkable in its determination to overcome the challenges that we must so often face.
What is the grit that keeps people going when they have been enslaved? How do people find the will to continue when they seek refuge only to be shunned? How is it possible to endure wars, poverty, uncertainty day after day? How do the everyday heroes among us keep their optimism and energy when life becomes almost unbearable? Even Mother Teresa had her limits and admitted that sometimes she became so saddened by the misery she witnessed that she almost lost her faith. Somehow she nonetheless dug deep inside of herself and managed to continue serving the sick and forgotten. How did she find the will and the energy to keep performing her miracles for some of the most ignored people on earth?
I suspect that there are people right now trudging to work, putting on happy faces, doing their best to be productive when their hearts are broken. We pass by people who are carrying great burdens and we may not even notice them. The weight of the all the world’s troubles are too much for one person. Trying to do so will burn most of us out. Instead we might consider the power of tackling problems together.
A few Saturdays ago I watched a crew of young people from the neighborhood Mormon temple descend on my cul-de-sac to weed and mulch people’s yards. They came like a swarm of worker bees and literally transformed yards within minutes. A task that might have taken all day for a single individual became easy to complete with the group effort. It was a wonder to watch them in action. It made me realize how much we can do as an army of goodwill.
I saw the same kind of thing happen in Houston after hurricane Harvey decimated people’s homes. Groups from churches, clubs, fraternities, athletic teams, families worked together to clean out the mud and muck that had invaded houses. Tasks that at first seemed impossible to complete were done in a single day. With teamwork and determination the groups saved people’s abodes from being destroyed by mold and rot. Organized and determined groups of good people stepped up to the challenge and with their sacrifices of time and compassion the city was pieced back together.
In ordinary times it is often difficult to know who is suffering among us. People put on stoic faces and carry on as though they have no worries even as they feel fragile and ready to fall apart. How often have we been stunned by news of the suicide of someone who appeared to be fine? How many times have we learned that someone we know has been quietly dealing with enormous difficulties without complaint? It is all too often true that many of the seemingly strong people that we see are slowly breaking apart inside.
The wise among us know when their burdens are too much to bear. They admit to their moments of uncertainty and ask for help. They are unafraid to tell us that they are tired. They do not feign strength when what they are enduring is too much to face alone. We must be ready to listen to them, to allow them to reveal their truths without judgement or even unsolicited advice. Just knowing that someone understands and cares may be all they need to push through their darkest moments.
I see evidence all of the time of the kind of support that people need when life is overwhelming them. There always seems to be that observant and wise soul who notices someone who is hurting and holds out a lifesaving hand. Giving encouragement and support allows the wounded to find the strength they need to take baby steps forward. Kindness abounds in the smallest gestures of care.
There is far more good than bad in the world and yet we focus more often on the ugliest aspects of our humanity. Little wonder that some souls lose faith and feel desperate and alone. Our society and media stokes their fears and judges them rather than working to understand and help them. We should be asking ourselves why we spend millions of dollars and hours fighting amongst our fellow humans when we would do better to admit that each of us is carrying burdens no matter who we seem to be. Our stories have formed our choices and either weakened us or made us strong. Maybe it’s time that we listened to those stories and just loved the people telling them.