I had a teacher stop in to see me at least twice a week with a coffee cup in his hand and a story, usually a joke, to tell. He did this for the six years I’ve been a principal at this school. The laughter was good, and the company was even better. His visits didn’t take long. Only a minute or two, maybe three. I looked forward to his visits.
One day, he came in with the cup of coffee, but without the story or joke, and told me he was retiring. Sad for me. Very sad for me. He was looking forward to his “new chapter in life” as he phrased it. He gets to spend more time with his grandchild. He gets to do parish work in a ministry he enjoys. Maybe sleep in more often. Maybe go to bed a little later.
He observed that as a principal, there are very few people around me that I can call “a friend.” That there are very few people around me that I can confide in. And it isn’t me, actually, but the title I hold and the “natural reservation” and “distance” I have to have. He said he never understood or recognized it until he had a conversation with a pastor friend who expressed the sentiment.
In a word, lonely. Sometimes, kind of lonely.
I was reminded of this conversation by two postings I saw on Facebook. (Yeah, I know!)
One picture was of an anchor being sucked into mud. The caption read: “Sometimes you don’t realize you’re actually drowning when you’re trying to be everyone else’s anchor.”
Hmmm . . .
The other picture was of a lion, proud and strong looking, head titled up slightly as if gazing at the horizon. The caption read: “The worst part about being strong is that no one asks if you’re okay.”
Hmmm . . .
Been like that. Felt like that. Seen it in myself. Seen it in others. Those who are near to me, dear to me, and in those who I casually observe from a distance.
I know at least three individuals who come to work every day, work with the kids in my school and who do incredible things with them, and yet, who are either battling their own illness or worrying about a family member’s illness. They place themselves and their own needs behind the needs of others. They epitomize the statement that “kids come first!” That statement and sentiment of “others before self!”
I believe most of us suffer silently, often while we try to help those around us. We wear a brave face. We smile. We ask others, “How are you doing?” “Are you okay?” And we do this with little thought to our own struggle, our own worry, sometimes our own pain.
And like the anchor, we risk drowning. And like the lion, because of the strength we show, no one asks if we’re okay.
We don’t know the day to day, moment to moment struggle, the worry that is carried by those around us. Sometimes we take for granted the laugh, the joke, the witty comment and assume that all is well. When like the anchor, there is the risk of drowning. And like the lion, there might be pain and sorrow and struggle behind the apparent strength.
Maybe we need to be more aware of those around us, outside of ourselves, and wonder- even out loud- if all is well, if all is okay. Maybe a kind word, a kind gesture, a knowing nod or smile might be enough to help lift the anchor out of the mud and keep it . . . him . . . her . . . from drowning. Maybe just an offer of a silent presence might be enough for the lion among us. Maybe. Perhaps. Something to think about . . .
Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!