"No matter how wide you stretch your fingers, your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal."
-- Sarah Kay, If I Should Have A Daughter
posted way back when...
I listened to Sarah Kay perform this again. My mind has been twisting around some thoughts lately... Perhaps I'm thinking a bit too hard, a bit too deep or perhaps I find myself facing a time of change within myself.
Just bear with me because it'll all make sense by the end of this post.
I had a friend in college, and for the sake of this conversation, let's just call her Helen. Helen was a little bit different. She had an abrasive personality, a series of problems that just made you want to shake her and tell her to make smart decisions and get her life in order.
People had a hard time with Helen, but all Helen wanted was to be loved.
One day I was at our neighbors house and our neighbor exclaimed, "Please just tell me something about her that makes up for her behavior. Tell me there is something to justify this."
I explained to our neighbor that Helen grew up as a ward of the state. She spent most of her teenage years living in an all girl's home/school and didn't know her mother well. She has severe health issues stemming from her mother's drinking and drug use when she was pregnant. That she joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints when she was a teenager and had been turning her life around since then.
The neighbor looked at me and said, "Oh. Well that makes sense now."
And something clicked in my 19-year-old brain. Something I probably should have understood long before that time.
The mandate given by the Savior that we love one another.
"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another, as I have loved you, they ye also love one another. " John 13:34
The Savior know each one of us intimately. Knows the details that make it unbearable to love and feel compassion and a desire to protect and defend people. So perhaps we should take His word on it and try to feel that love toward everyone.
Last night I was having a conversation with some close friends. They talked about a mutual acquaintance we all share. I chimed in and asked if I could provide a bit of background on this person's life. Background that makes her the behavior understandable.
We ended up talking for a good 30 minutes about why it the behavior is understandable but not excusable. About how our circumstances do not determine who we become. A conclusion I think the three of us could easily agree upon. Our circumstances shape us, but we can grow and change in spite of them. We can't blame all of our problems on our parents, our siblings, our spouses, the weather, etc...
At a certain point, perhaps a certain level of maturity, we choose to grow. To change our circumstances. To rise above.
But not everyone gets there. Not everyone gets there quickly either.
I'd like to think that everyone faces this moment. Everyone has something to rise above.
So I hope that when we witness the struggles of someone else. Someone caught in a trap or cycle set by their circumstances, that we can be quick to forgive. Quick to recognize that we all face the same predicament, and it is a whole heck of a lot easier to make it through by the support of others as opposed to jeers and judgement.
We all have a story. A story that makes us loveable. I'm going to try a lot harder to remember that and to extend the hand of relief and fellowship before I am close enough to someone to figure out what that story is. And I hope that people are willing to do that for me.
Someone read this poem to me a long time ago. It took me a long time to understand it. Last week I got some wonderful advice from a church leader, "Error on the safe side of measuring."
When I went to the door, at the whisper of knocking,
I saw Simeon Gantner’s daughter, Kathleen, standing
There, in her shawl and her shame, sent to ask
“Forgiveness Flour” for her bread. “Forgiveness Flour,”
We call it in our corner. If one has erred, one
Is sent to ask for flour of his neighbors. If they loan it
To him, that means he can stay, but if they refuse, he had
Best take himself off. I looked at Kathleen . . .
What a jewel of a daughter, though not much like her
Father, more’s the pity. “I’ll give you flour,” I
Said, and went to measure it. Measuring was the rub.
If I gave too much, neighbors would think I made sin
Easy, but if I gave too little, they would label me
“Close.” While I stood measuring, Joel, my husband
Came in from the mill, a great bag of flour on his
Shoulder, and seeing her there, shrinking in the
Doorway, he tossed the bag at her feet. “Here, take
All of it.” And so she had flour enough for many loaves,
While I stood measuring.