Thursday, November 5, 2015

sitting in the middle of someone else's pain

Recently I had some time to myself so I spent it at one of my favorite places... Chick-Fil-A. Their sweet tea is one of my favorite things on the planet so it's not a hard sell to get me in the door. I usually take a book or my laptop with me in hopes of spending some time reading or writing while I sip my on my bottomless cup of sugar and caffeine (mixed with a touch of tea). When I walked through the doors on this particular day I immediately noticed something was different. The line was long. Normally, it's not. The restaurant was loud, and crowded, and bustling with energy. And then I noticed the difference. It was a group of about twenty-five young adults with special needs and just as many aids to help them. I had a hard time taking my eyes off of them because they were precious. Some with greater disabilities than others. Some being spoon fed pureed food by their aids, others carrying their own drinks to their tables. Some talking, some not. Some smiling, some not.

Once I got through the line and had my food it was time to find a seat. There weren't a lot of choices because the restaurant was pretty full but I noticed a few high-top tables near the back and right next to the group of young adults. For some reason my heart just wanted to sit next to them. Among them. With them. I knew there probably wasn't going to be any conversation between us but it was as if in my own head sitting among them was a decision of solidarity. I see you, I hear you, I'm with you. So I sat. And it wasn't what I expected.

It was uncomfortable. And at moments even a little disturbing. At one point a young man started to yell very loudly about every 60 seconds which was a little disturbing in itself, but it also seemed to upset one of the other students because he also stood up and started yelling and smacking himself in the head. This went on for 15 or 20 minutes. I thought about moving to a different seat but I just couldn't. What would that say to them? "Your challenges are inconveniencing me on this lovely day as I'm trying to enjoy my lunch." Where some of them in physical pain? Probably. Emotional pain? Maybe. Psychological pain? Possibly. I'll never know exactly but I knew that if I got up and left it would speak volumes about how society ALREADY treats them and views them and I wasn't interested in jumping in that boat. So I sat. And I stayed.

This experience might not mean anything to you but for me it sparked so many thoughts about sitting in the middle of someone else's pain. And how necessary it is.

But here's the honest truth when it comes to sitting in the middle of someone else's pain....

It's uncomfortable.
It's awkward.
It's disturbing.
You might not know what to say.

But more than any of those things, what I learned at CFA that day is it speaks volumes when we do. It speaks volumes to the person you're sitting with and it speaks volumes to the people around you watching. I'm pretty sure no one noticed where I sat at CFA that day but I know there are plenty of times in life when people DO notice. There are so many people in this world who are aching for someone to sit with them in their pain. To join hands in solidarity. To know that they are seen, heard, and valued.

Who can we stand in solidarity with today? Refugees? The homeless? Foster children? Single moms? Orphans? The poor? The oppressed? The widowed? The list could go on and on and on.

With words or without, solidarity says "You're seen. You're heard. You're valued." Someone needs to know that today. 

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