Last night my wife and I were invited to attend a fund raiser for families who have either terminally ill children or children who have suffered from a traumatic event, such as a horrific accident that left them severely impaired in some way or another.
These kids’ ages ranged from 4 years old to their twenties. Some have been diagnosed with some form of cancer, while others faced various degenerative, muscular conditions that limited their ability to walk, or move normally. Four of them were present last night, at the fund raiser, to perform on stage singing a song, or playing a guitar. Their courage to come up onstage was amazing. For some of them, this would be a first time event they did something like this, in front a large gathering. The anxiety they felt was acutely evident in their facial expressions, the way some of them stuttered as they attempted to speak to us and the deep breaths they drew in and exhaled into the microphone.
The courage these kids have had to muster up while they and their families faced great difficulties causes me to take pause at what my own life has been like, and the attitudes I have when dealing with the seemingly, petty hardships and temporal challenges I have faced in my life. I have not been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease like cancer, leukemia, a crippling, muscular disease like cerebral palsy, or a traumatic brain injury that the doctors speculated would leave me on a ventilator for the rest of my life. Yet, that is the reality for these young heroes. This is what they and their families face each day. Some of the children don’t make it.
I, like many of us, are facing challenging times. But rather than sitting at home, feeling sorry for myself and stressing over those issues I truly have no real control over, I take the time to volunteer in some way or another to make someone else’s life a little better. The first time I understood how satisfying and fulfilling it was to play a key role in helping someone in a time of great distress, was when I served in the U.S. Army as a combat medic, responding to life-threatening emergencies. I never forgot the looks of relief I got from those needing emergency care during a crisis moment, where their life was in danger.
Soon after I was honorably discharged for the Army, I began to experience PTSD(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and fell into an emotional tailspin that lasted three years. I was in an inescapable, dark pit. Every single waking moment, was a relentless battle, struggling to keep my wits and not having an emotional breakdown while I was out with other people. I got no help, because I didn’t know where to go for help. So I struggled and languished dealing with anxiety attacks and depression, until one day, I had a vision in my heart from God, of where I was…it was an image of the incarcerating , dark pit I had fallen into. I felt that He had shown me that He would lead out from within myself, if I would reach out to others and help them.
So that’s what I began to do. It wasn’t easy…it was very hard at first. But as I became active in volunteer work, visiting the sick and terminally ill in hospitals, feeding and encouraging the homeless living in the streets, counseling and encouraging those incarcerated in prison, my perspective of my life began to change. I had developed an healthy sense of self esteem, that I was valuable in God’s eyes, as He used me to speak His words of comfort and healing to others who had gone through much more difficult hardships and challenges in their own lives. It is said, that one who has experienced great adversity and hardships, speaks many languages. I am intimately familiar with what that means. A deep sense of compassion, is born out of great adversity. I speak compassion fluently. Do you? I hope so.
In the support group where I act as a co-facilitator, to help men recover from the traumatic effects of past abuses and traumas they experienced, I have seen how devastating injuries to the soul can be and how far reaching and deep these wounds can be and how long they can linger and reek havoc in one’s life when not confronted and dealt with. There are so many who desperately need help in finding their way out of the deep pits of pain and despair, but don’t where to go for help. Worse, they feel they are abandoned by God and humanity and believe they are forced to deal with their debilitating issues on their own. There are so many people, who have yet to realize the great, life-changing impact they can have in the lives of others, if they would only volunteer in some place.
My intent isn’t to lessen or diminish the severity of what you might be dealing with in your own life. Anything we experience, that can cause us deep distress and suffering is significant, because we are going through it, and it has disrupted our ability to function normally in life. But sometimes, as God did with me, the path of healing we need, will require us to get involved in the lives of others who are going through unimaginable challenges, far more difficult than what we are experiencing. It is in those beautiful life lessons that God uses, to teach us…and show us how much He loves us and the many others around us, by what we allow Him to do in us and through us, for the well being of others. Be an angel God uses to reach out and touch someone else’s life.