Once upon a time, I took a walk. I was restless and searching for something – I didn’t know what.
A few minutes from my house, I passed an old man. His right hand trembled. His left never stopped stroking the simple golden ring on his finger. His grey hair hid most of his face, but two piercing blue eyes stared at me. They were full of unspoken agony.
I passed the young woman who kept her eyes fixed on the pavement and her shoulders bent. She shuddered when people walked by too close and trembled when men crossed her path. No one but me noticed.
A little later, another figure crossed my path. The eyes of the teen stared blankly at a world that had long ago lost all color and beauty. He moved through the world in a daze, not seeing, not knowing and desperately hoping not to feel anything. There were deep lines of worry etched across his forehead. He was always moving, always running from a past that he never allowed himself to think of but one that never left him.
My heart ached for my fellow men and woman. Where were the happy ones? Where were the ones untouched by grief, by suffering, by pain?
I ordered a coffee from the quiet little shop near my home. The barista’s voice was light as she took my order. She laughed in response to a co-worker’s joke. Perhaps I had found the untouched one. But as she handed me my drink, her eyes met mine. For a second, I caught a glimpse of a heart crying for love, for acceptance, for someone to tell her that she had value as a person, for someone to notice her. For a sacred moment, honest vulnerability lay before me. But the mask was quickly pulled up and she smiled and turned away. When she spoke again, her voice was softer, sadder than before.
I stopped by a store on my way back to my quiet home. The hot summer sun caused sweat to gather on my forehead and make my hair sticky. I fanned myself with the back of my hand, wishing that I had lighter clothes. It was then that someone caught my eye. Despite the horrible heat, a young woman was dressed in black. The sweat shirt and thick pants were out of place in a sea of people dressed in shorts and t-shirts. She kept her eyes down and picked at the ends of her sleeves. I glanced at the old, faded scars on my arms and I knew that this girl was in the same place that I had been, years ago.
As I walked home with my groceries hanging heavy on my arms, it was as though my eyes were opened. Every face I saw was filled with pain. Every eye that met mine was a silent cry for help, for deliverance. In the few minutes that it took to walk back to my little sanctuary, I saw racism. I saw hunger. I saw depression. I saw loss, contemplated suicide, broken families, rejection, unfaithfulness, anger, despair, rage, pain, suffering. Never once did I see the perfectly happy person that I searched so diligently for.
Overwhelmed, I threw my bags onto my kitchen floor and raced up to my bedroom. I slammed the door closed behind me and sat with my back against it. I closed my eyes, trying to wash away the memory of all of the pain that I had seen. But the faces were clear in my mind. Each one begging me to do something. Each one asking for a little hope to save their lives. Each one telling me that they were lost and that they needed someone to find them.
I clenched my fists. I bit my lip. I silently screamed out against a God who would look on while his people, his creation, suffered so.
“Where are you?” I hissed through gritted fists. “Why? When are you going to save these people?”
A thought came to my mind immediately, as if in answer to my plea.
Someone needs to do something.
“Exactly!” I nodded. Someone needed to do something to make a difference in the broken world. Someone needed to start a change. Someone needed to go out and let all of those people know that they aren’t alone and that they don’t have to suffer by themselves.
And I knew in that moment that somebody didn’t need to do that. I needed to do it. I needed to be the one to love the hopeless, the broken, the needy. I had to be the one to make a difference.
Once upon a time I took a walk. But today, I don’t pass the people on the street. I stop, I look them in the eye and I tell them that they are not alone.