“Listen, most people aren’t looking for you to fix their problems or heal their pain, but your presence in the midst of it can make all the difference in the world… Oh, to know you are loved and not alone…” –Wendy M. Reynolds
A hard rain storm is hitting Greater Detroit and surrounding cities today. All freeways are closed due to flooding. People have been stuck for hours upon hours trying to get home. Some streets looked like Lake Michigan. Cars are abandoned, basements are flooded, thousands are without electricity, hundreds having to be rescued from cars sinking under water, people walking down the street falling into manholes because the manhole covers floated away. It is crazy. Now in comparison to places like Katrina or other places that suffered so much loss of life and a whole loss of community due to hurricanes, mudslides, wars- it doesn’t seem so bad. However, for the people experiencing this at the moment, it is bad.
While this is occurring, breaking news regarding the death of Actor & Comedian Extraordinaire, Robin Williams is hitting the airwaves. Robin, who has had many struggles with depression and addiction- who spent his whole life making the world laugh, took his life. I’m sitting here shaking my head. I wish I was shaking it out of disbelief. Instead, it is just out of sadness- sad that another person, who seeming gave his all to everyone else, died tragically and in despair.
No doubt, there will soon be Robin Williams marathons on TV, folks will talk about what a genius and a great man he was, and no doubt the issue of depression and mental illness will top the lists of topics for discussion everywhere. We will hear of the need for more access to mental health and more understanding about depression- how people need not be ashamed to seek out help… how it effects people of all ages, races, financial backgrounds… You know all the comments that pop up when we have a mass shooting or when someone famous commits suicide. Oh, it’s coming. And please don’t get me wrong, it’s all true and it needs to be said more often. However, what isn’t talked about much is how to know if your family member/friend is hurting and how to be a friend to someone who is suffering.
People, in one way or another, tell us how they are but way too often, in our society, we are too busy to listen. We have close friends who are facing serious battles but we often walk away from them leaving them with a quick “I’m praying for you” or “You’re strong, you’ll be alright.” We must be careful not to discount someone’s pain. We must return to a culture that values and prioritizes people- one that listens and cares deeply. We must be the ones who look for the family member or friend that has begun to isolate himself. We have to be willing to dig a little deeper- be willing to ask questions and peek behind the mask. We have to learn how to fight for one another and let folks know they are worth fighting for! We must be willing to fight for people more than we fight for anything else!
The rain storm in Michigan became problematic because it was too much, too fast, too long. Just like many of the problems and life storms people are facing today. It is just too much (health problems, financial struggles, past traumas, disappointments, relationship issues, grief, identity crisis, failing expectations, racial tensions, school, crisis of faith…), all quickly happening at the same time and seemingly never-ending. No wonder people slip into hopelessness- smiling and laughing on the outside while bleeding internally.
I know I say it over and over again… but people are hurting. They are overwhelmed- often stuck in their pain. Their insides are spilling out. Their circumstances are choking the life out of them. They are flooded with renegade emotions. They are losing their passion- abandoning what matters most- their sense of self and their hope. Hopelessness is one of if not the biggest enemy facing people today and the best weapon to combat hopelessness is hope.
Check on your family and friends. Ask them how they are doing. Don’t just brush them off with the “Aww, you’ll be alright, I’m praying for you. I’ll see you later and we’ll talk then…” Don’t just Facebook, text or Twitter them. Show up in their lives. Get them out of the house. Bring some light into their lives. Take them out for a good meal. Let them talk. Turn your cell phone off. Value them enough to give them your undivided time and ear. Ask the strongest person you know, “How are you doing?” Check on your first responders in your life- the persons you and everyone else always turn to all the time for help. They often get left out or forgotten because they are the “helpers“. Be prepared to give words of hope over and over again. Be prepared to stick with them.
Everyone we know is facing battles. So make it a point to be kind to people. Take time to appreciate the ones you are blessed to have in your life. Verbally say “I love you” to those you love. Write a letter (send it by snail mail not email) and let someone know why you’re grateful they are in your life.
“Well, Wendy, all of that takes time and I’m no mental health counselor. That’s not my training. They need a professional.” Someone in your life may need counseling or medication and that’s okay. Let’s encourage them and help them seek it out. Listen, most people aren’t looking for you to fix their problems or heal their pain, but your presence in the midst of it can make all the difference in the world. It might not be easy loving folks through their issues- their crises, but it is worth it. Real friends love all the time- through good and tough seasons- through all kinds of weather, and a brother is made for adversity. He sticks with you when times are rough (Prov. 17:17). You don’t have to be a professional, just be a friend. See, when the rubber meets the road, love is what matters. Oh, to know you are loved and not alone… whew!
Take care of your heart and each other!