I ran into an acquaintance last weekend and my conversation with her has been in the back of my mind all week.
Her kids have grown and left the house, living lives of their own. It is the time in life when she and her husband could relax a little and enjoy the quiet of an empty nest. Instead they have continued to take in foster children, something they have done for years and have even adopted two small children with fetal alcohol syndrome. Of course all of this left me in awe. I was inspired and moved by this family’s dedication to those hurting around them. I know they are tired and yet have made the tough decision to not sit back and live an easy life. By doing this, they have given many children the chance to experience a loving home, even if just for a little while: to rock babies to sleep while singing to them and praying for their little broken hearts, to sign kids up for t-ball if only for one short season, and with a heavy heart to often see them go back to uncertain lives at home. This friend talked of kids coming to them with broken bones, scars from sexual abuse, and of having to meet with police to make a safety plan in case a violent father gets out of jail.
Amazingly though, she didn’t just talk of the hardships. She spoke with joy and a mother’s love-filled heart about her children (adopted and biological) and her foster children. Her face lit up as she shared the special ed teacher’s plan for her daughter to use a hula hoop to learn boundaries. “I’m buying three hula hoops for the house!” she laughed.
Later in the same day I sat with Ruby on my lap at a local play put on by children. As I experienced that motherly feeling of a full heart watching my sweet girl enthralled with the play, I also felt an awareness that somewhere in town a child may be having a very different kind of experience. It is a strange human truth that swirling around us at any given moment is so much beauty and so much pain. The world is a glorious place in which I constantly feel grateful, and yet, for some the world is a place filled with hurt and sadness.
There is a balance somewhere I think: to constantly be grateful, to live your bliss, to love life, and yet to never allow yourself to be shielded from those around you, maybe next door or even within your family, who are carrying broken hearts. In order to make a difference, I think sometimes, we have to step into the sorrow willingly. The friend I ran into has done just this, stepped outside of her life and into the pain of others in order that their lives filled with hardship may also have spots of joy, of late night rockings and prayers, of t-ball games and ice cream outings, and the experience of feeling absolutely worthy of love.
And so I move on from this short but deep interaction more aware of the painful darkness in the world and the glorious light as well and I hope we can all move through this beauty and this sorrow in such a way that our lives can lend to others at least a spot of comfort or a space of joy. And I hope we look willingly for those times when we will need to step out of our comfortable surroundings and into the sorrow in order to make the light a little more than the darkness.