My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
John 15:12 (NIV)
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
I just didn’t have the capacity to help others.
After my diagnosis I’d run for the hills at the first whiff of somebody else’s need. I could barely hold my own fractured life together so the thought of being the glue in someone else’s shattered world filled me with dread.
I’d bought into the myth that being there for others comes at huge personal cost.
Then I met Vicki.
It was only a brief encounter in the radiation department’s changing room, but she opened my heart to the gift of reaching out. Sitting in awkward silence, our hospital gowns gapping precariously round our knees, our cancer diagnoses hung silently in the air. We waited our turn, awkwardly perched on the clinical pleather seats, doing our best to preserve our modesty.
Whatever cancer she was battling, Vicki was clearly having a rough ride. Her pink scalp glared through wisps of what remained of her hair, and she sucked desperately on a mint, her dry cracked lips threatening to split and bleed.
On previous visits I’d politely exchanged pleasantries with fellow patients, but never ventured beyond the safety of the weather, or where our cancer lay buried. There’d never been time; we were marshaled off to our various treatment rooms with military precision, and anything beyond that seemed too personal, too intrusive.
But here we sat, with only her mint sucking filling the silence. Things were running late and the dearth of the usual glossy magazines gave us a choice: make eye contact and say hi, or continue in awkward silence? Extroverts don’t like silence; we feel the need to fill it, so I broke protocol.
“Hi.” I said, offering a throat lozenge scavenged from the depths of my bag as an introduction.
As I suspected, she was having a dreadful time. Mouth cancer had left her nauseous, enduring painful mouth sores, and a dry, parched mouth, thanks to the destruction of her salivary glands. We shared our stories, and I told her how sorry I was. We held hands and I offered to pray; it was all I had to give her.
Eventually I was called to get my butt zapped. We hugged in silence and said a teary goodbye, agreeing we felt lighter, more able to face the day’s treatment and what lay ahead.
That morning I realized sharing someone’s burden, even for a moment, isn’t the strain I’d imagined, but a privilege and joy.
Unusually for this “make it happen” girl, I hadn’t offered a single piece of advice, or any practical support. I had none to offer.
I just sat with her, listened as she’d poured out her fears and worries, and agreed that yes, life really does stink sometimes.
I’d been wrong.
Afraid of being swamped by someone else’s stormy waters, I’d hidden in self-preservation. In that waiting room, I learned lifting someone up doesn’t need to be bring us down, or be some big, all-singing all-dancing act of chivalry that leaves us drained and overwhelmed.
[Tweet “Lifting someone up doesn’t need to bring us down. ~@NikiBHardy”]
When we turn our hearts towards another’s pain and away from protecting our own, small acts of kindness have the power to lighten someone’s darkness and brighten our own day, at no great cost to ourselves.
As Gandalf said in J.R.R.Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings: “It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.” Small acts of kindness and love.
Love doesn’t always mean leaping into action; often it’s simply stepping towards someone in love.
Today may not be the day to start a worldwide ministry, or take in your neighbor’s ailing mother-in-law, but today will always be the day to hold out a hand and say “Me, too. I hate that you’re going through this.”
If you’ve focused on self-preservation in this difficult season, that’s understandable and okay. I get it – I was right there with you until I met Vicki. Please don’t beat yourself up. Instead, let me invite you to lift your eyes from your own swirling life and look around to see who’s nearby and could use a small act of kindness.
When we reach out in love, at little cost to ourselves, we offer something priceless, and receive something invaluable.
Let’s open our eyes to those around us, not seeing them as burden we must carry, but as fellow travelers along life’s rocky road who needs love and companionship. As we do, we not only meet others where they are, but encounter a more abundant life ourselves, and thrive.
How have you seen this played out in your own life? What small act of kindness can you offer today?
Do you believe the lies telling you’re not precious, worthy or loved by God? I do.
To help us counter those pesky lies we tell ourselves (about being too weak, unloved, not good enough and without hope) I’ve written a love letter from God. It’s 40 bible verses to show how much God loves you and how special you are to Him. You can download it HERE and read it in the car, in the bath, or each morning before you head boldly into your day.
From me, to you with love. xx
Share this link with a friend so they can know God’s love, too: