“Ms. Tina are you happy?” asked “G,” one of my son Alex’s friends, who was over for a playdate. G is a very observant child, so I wondered if he was asking about my general level of happiness in life or if he’d picked up on the fact that I’d had an emotional day. So, I answered with a simple, “yeah,” hoping to deflect his inquiry. I knew I was busted when G asked, “Do you lie?” Not wanting to lie in that instant, I said, “Sometimes.” He asked, “Are you lying now? You look sad.” His intuition was spot on. I smiled at him and said, “I’ve had a weird day.” He nodded and looked at me with great care in his eyes. I changed the subject then, not wanting to ruin the playdate. G is only nine years old, but he trusted his instinct enough to ask when he felt something was not quite right with me. And when the conversation was over, I felt seen and heard.
We’ve probably all been there – we feel down or sad and to compound the problem, no one seems to even notice. The isolation grows when we don’t think anyone cares. If someone would just ask how we are really doing in a sincere manner, then we wouldn’t feel like our burdens are so heavy because we wouldn’t have to carry them alone.
I’m sure we’ve also been on the other side of the equation though. We realize that someone doesn’t seem like themselves from their countenance or tone of voice or the way they walk. I’m sure most of the time we stop and check on the person who seems out of sorts. But I know that I for one don’t always act when I know I probably should. I tell myself I don’t want to bother them or even worse, upset them further. Maybe I think that someone else who is a closer friend to them should be the one to take the initiative. Perhaps I decide I don’t have the physical or emotional energy to engage right then. At times, all those thoughts could be true, and at other times, they might just be excuses.
Our initial reactions don’t have to be our final ones, however. When I hesitate to approach someone who I think may be having a tough time, I need to ask myself if I have a good reason or just want to avoid my own potential discomfort. Is there an authentic reason to sidestep the conversation or am I rationalizing my own behavior? We are the hands and feet of God, and God asks us to demonstrate his love, not only when it is easy and enjoyable, but when it is hard and messy. God doesn’t ask us to fix everyone’s problems because that’s not possible. Sometimes, just the mere fact of noticing that someone seems off kilter can be the thing that helps them begin to feel better. Sitting with another and simply listening may be all we can do in that moment – and that might be all they need. Knowing that someone is thinking about and praying for them may provide a measure of comfort that they can hang on to.
G made a difference to me that day. I hope I can return the favor to him in the future, but in the meantime, I’ll try to overcome my reluctance to approach others when I sense their sadness. Let us all step up to show God’s love to those around us by not only noticing when they might need an encouraging word or a kind gesture but acting on that impulse as well.