Christmas. A time of what? A time of trees, tinsel, wreaths, holly, decorations and paper chains? A time of gifts, shopping, wrapping paper, sellotape, ribbons and bows? A time of mince pies, chocolate, turkey, cranberry, sprouts and pudding? A time of family, loved ones, friends, laughter, arguments and general chaotic merriment? Or a time of sadness, isolation, loss, loneliness, unhappiness and rejection?
Now. One main law in the world I live in is not to focus on the negative. Don’t entertain it, don’t indulge it and don’t swim around in it. But. Sometimes you need to touch on it in order to expose and appreciate the positive! I can guarantee 100% that whatever difficulties, whatever challenges, whatever heartache, whatever brokenness you are experiencing in your own life right now, there is somebody not so far away that is having an even tougher time.
It’s true to say that we will all have our own stories and experiences from the last year – positive and negative. And it’s also probably true to say that all of us, even the most positive ones of us, at some point find ourselves drawn into a negative focus rather than a positive one. The glass is half empty, there are dark clouds in the sky; well, actually the glass is half full and the sun is just behind the clouds, giving them a beautiful silver lining of light and hope and something beyond. It’s so easy to make ourselves the victims, feel sorry for ourselves, and feel the need to examine and pick at our hurts and wounds in detail. But there really is always somebody struggling that little bit more, finding life harder, facing bigger challenges, facing bigger loss .. and that, if we just stop and think, will enable us to maintain our own personal perspective and standing. It’s also true that everything is relative. Nothing affects us more than our own immediate world; but that doesn’t need to consume us completely, that is not where life stops. It’s bigger, wider, broader. We need to open our eyes. And even if they’re open, we need to open them even wider.
A few weeks ago I was out on a Sunday evening in a local city in a quaint, little bar when a guy suddenly caught our eye and got talking to a friend I was out with. While he is one of those people in life that without effort seem to cause just about anyone to open up and bare their souls, they ended up in a conversation at the bar and on glancing over, I could see the guy had tears streaming down his face.
In that moment, it struck me all over again, there are broken people everywhere. That I was just sitting in a tiny bar in one street of a fairly small city. The cobbled street we were in was full of other bars, filled with other people. And that was just one street. There were streets and streets. And that was just one area of the city. And that was just one city. In the South. And there are more cities in the East, West and North. And that’s just one country. In the whole wide world. So many people are walking around broken, hurting and suffering and most of the time we don’t even know it because we are either too focused on our own struggles, or they are too well practised at putting on the smile and disguising the pain. They simply need an understanding ear, someone to listen, some genuine care, love, kindness and compassion.
In that moment in that bar, I felt – almost physically – the heaviness of the burdens being carried. And something rose up causing me to well up myself. I wanted to rescue the guy. Hug him. Tell him there is hope, help him realise some perspective, know that he matters in this world and has real genuine value. I had no idea what his personal burden was, and therefore couldn’t assure him everything would be fine … but I could offer him hope in this world. And as I looked around me, I wondered how many other people needed the same.
So. At the beginning of a new year, one of my many aims is to live life with my eyes wide open and continue to do what I can to make a difference in the world and to the people in it. Another main aim is to continue counting my blessings. To know and realise that no matter what struggles and difficulties may be going on in my own little world, the real world is bigger and there are those that would genuinely struggle to find their blessings. Life is tough, life is challenging, life is hard, life throws us curve balls sometimes but life is also beautiful, it is joyful, it is fun, it is vibrant and it is to be lived!