Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Right To Cry

As I so often do, I found myself checking Tripp Roth's website this morning to see if his mother had updated his status at all.  If you're not familiar with Tripp's story, you can check it out here:  It is, by far, the most heart-wrenching, gut-emptying, tear-jerking story I have EVER read in my life.  And I'm a sucker for a sad story, lemme tell ya.  Just ask my husband.  He often finds me in the fetal position bathing in a my own lacrimation after having read some pitiful story of an orphan with no eyes who got ran over by a truck or an elderly man with no ears getting beaten up by a thug while doing his crossword puzzles.  Those are made up scenarios, by the way, but you get my drift.

So, after this last post I decided to read some of the comments at the end that readers had left.  Of course, 99% of them were just encouraging Courtney in her daily struggles and expressing admiration for the incredible mother that she is.  There was one that particularly caught my eye, though.  It was a woman who started off her comment with "And here I am complaining because my son may have eye cancer...."  Yeah....wait, what?  Your son has EYE CANCER?!?!?  Lady, can I, perhaps, indulge you with a little compassion here?  Call me cray cray but I think you might just deserve to do a little "complaining" at the thought that your son might have eye cancer.  This isn't a scratch on his cornea that will heal in a couple of days or a misplaced eyelash that is producing monumental irritation.  This is EYE CANCER.  Please, slap the wall and kick the door.

     Now, look, I know I'm hard on myself at times, too.  I get my guilt on when I realize I've been less than grateful for the gifts I've been given.  But there is something about that woman's comment that seems to turn things on its head for me.  It bothered me.  Don't get me wrong, I think I know what she is intending and she is an incredible person for seeing another person's suffering and being able to "get out of herself" for just a bit and realize that other people have it bad, too.  TOO.  I think that's my point.  Does the fact that our sufferings sometimes pale in comparison to another person's suffering mean that our tears are somehow selfish?  Do I just need to "shut it" when my head is throbbing because, God forbid, somewhere in the world right now someone is probably being beheaded?  "At least you have a head to hurt" the popular thought goes.  Gee, why thank you.  The simple fact of the matter is, hurt is hurt.  It might not be the same degree of hurt and it might not be even in the same galaxy as another person's hurt, but you're crying just the same.  And, by golly, it's okay to cry.

     Consider the mother that, every time their child skinned their knee on the playground, she whipped out a picture of a paraplegic and shoved it in the kids face: You think you got it bad, kid?  You think he wouldn't love to be able to feel his skinned knee right about now?  Sop up the tears and get back on the slide.  I mean, if we're going to start comparing everyone's travails side by side, do any of us ever deserve to let a drop of liquid leave our reddened eye?
    And that's where it's difficult.  Because so often we complain about inconveniences and annoyances and not hurt and pain.  And the humdrum of our own litany of pity starts to bore even ourselves.   But there is a difference between complaining about an inconvenience and suffering a real hurt.  Eye cancer in your son is a real hurt.  Being cold waiting in line outside the movies is an inconvenience.  When we complain about both it starts to blend inconveniences and real hurts together and then we feel guilty about complaining about both.  Or crying about both.  We easily lose sight of the fact that it's okay to cry and talk out our frustrations, even over the little hurts in life.  Isn't there a necessary compassion for the little hurts in life?  My kids hurt themselves all the time, from little bumps and bruises to big falls and big aches.  No, they're not dying, but they are hurting.  Other people might be enduring much more at the moment but they are the ones in front of me, the ones who need my compassion now.  And to them, it IS a big hurt.  So, while I think it quite healthy to expose ourselves to the incredible sufferings of those who endure unimaginable misery, I also think that minimizing our own disappointments about life isn't the right approach.
     We all have our own pain.  Plastering a smile on your face and a nice motto of "fake it til' you make it" is a bit overused.  Just cry, will you?   Because when God came to earth, he didn't make the small hurts seem trivial.  He cured a man who had a withered hand.  Yep, that's it, a withered hand.  No, the man wasn't dying.  No, the man wasn't paralyzed.  No, the man wasn't oozing pain from every pore in his body.  But he had a withered hand, and that must have been a royal pain in the behind.  And Jesus thought it worthy of a cure.  He didn't chastise the man about all paraplegics who needed him or the people who had children on their deathbeds.  Nah, he had compassion for the big hurts and the little hurts, and so should we.  


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