We Are Surrounded by Hurting People

When was the last time you thought about the people around you?

The mother and child sitting on the bench waiting for the bus? The elderly woman struggling to push a cart in Wal-Mart? The lonely man pondering the painful complexities of life?

If you are like me, it is easy to take a mental note, subconsciously avert my eyes or sadly, even scoot a little further away. Sometimes, I might say a prayer for them, but more often than not, I just see them—- and get on with my life.

But lately, I’ve been thinking more about the people around me. Their stories. Their lives. Their pasts. And their futures with or without a knowledge of a personal Savior.

Like the lady I met this morning at the cleaners. A sweet older soul from India, she eagerly took time away from her soaps to chat with me about her weekend. A weekend that was harrowing to say the least. Her tale sounded just like a Hollywood movie script. An enterprising crook, probably inspired by a crime flick from Hollywood, had broken into the nail salon next door, and under the cover of darkness, chiseled through the walls on both sides, and was able to rob not just one business, but three. The poor lady walked into her store and was greeted by a man-size hole in the wall of her business…..and her cash register missing.

Or how about the teenager I saw standing on the corner this afternoon with a big handwritten placard on his chest? Apparently, this fellow’s spring break wasn’t going quite according to his plans. Written across his chest were the words “I fell asleep in class….so my dad has me out here preparing for my future.” Once I picked up my proverbial dentures, I thought about how painful (though character building) that must be for him—and commended the tough love of a father who clearly cared about his son’s future.

Or how about the guy I’ve casually chatted with a few times in Wal-mart while he checked out my groceries. Over the past year or so, I’ve even learned that he had a grandfather who was at Pearl Harbor during the attack. This afternoon, he had the shortest wait line, so I jumped in it with my purchases and started asking him about his day.

Funny, a lot of times when we ask someone, “how are you?” are we really ready for how they might reply? So many times I find myself expecting the usual “fine” that I’m occasionally flabbergasted when I get the real, honest, unvarnished truth. And that’s what I got in Wal-mart.

As he and I chatted, he mentioned that his day had been rather difficult. I certainly can understand rough days, but I told him that my day always go better when I start it off with a good chat with God. Without skipping a beat, he replied that it would be pointless for him to try to have a conversation with God—and added that he wanted nothing to do with Him because He was the source of all his problems. Plus, he found the “two people who created” him equally to blame.

After the shock registered, my heart immediately started to ache for this dear man. While I can see God as a gracious, loving, wise Father, this man’s heart is full of bitterness toward both his earthly and heavenly fathers.

Never again will I be able to look at him in quite the same way. Instead of seeing an always smiling clerk, I see him as a man who has a smile which just masks the pain. His heart is hurting and as someone that God orchestrated for him to have a divine appointment with, it is my duty to pray for him—-and for all those I come across.

Next time when you’re tempted to keep walking by, stop and say hello. Or at the very least, smile and say a prayer for those around you.

After all, God didn’t put them in your path for no reason at all.

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