As a therapist and trauma recovery coach, I encounter many hurting people in the landscape of life, especially during the holiday season. This time of year seems to magnify the pain that some carry inside from the path they have travelled. They just want to go home, to that place of peace, calm and respite. Instead, they feel metaphorically lost without a map or even enough money for a lousy bus token to take them home once they figure out which way to travel. They might feel ashamed, hopeless, or defeated. Hungry, tired, and lost the most they wish for is the slightest amount of shelter from life’s storms during this holiday season, a chance to regroup and get their bearings.
Sometimes passersby flick judgment upon them like a burning cigarette butt. Others walk by them and look away, offering no help. Or they kick up a dirty puddle of advice in the form of trite platitudes.
I have been there. Lost. Alone. Broken. To be honest there are still days I’m not sure I’m headed in the right direction. And more often than not I travel alone, by choice because my past has not taught me many good lessons about the safety and dependability of other human beings. But I’m not as broken as I used to be. I have more resources and treasures stored inside myself than I have ever had before.
On my journey I encounter other lost spirits, searching for shelter, direction, and hope. Unfortunately, no one’s path is the same as mine. To take them with me would be fruitless. They have their own road, which is as unfamiliar and foreign to me as mine is to them. I can’t even be certain we’re headed to the same destination. I’ve never been to my home, that place of peace, love, and contentment where I am restless and anguished no more. Their destination might be miles from my own.
So I can’t show them the way. My heart feels the vibration of their fear and pain. I see the brokenness in their eyes. I would do anything for the magical power of wishing them home.
The most I can do is take their hands in my own and tell them, “If I knew your way home I would take you there. I would carry you, safe and tucked away because I know you are tired and hurting. But I don’t know the way to your home. I can stay with you here though. Share with you what I have. Let you rest while I look over you. We will wait together. Until you are better. Until someone who knows your home comes to fetch you. Until my resources are exhausted.”
We can’t help everyone. I don’t even see all of those who need help. Life rushes by us or our focus is in another direction. But those who are squarely in our path are part of journey. We are meant to help them, and doing so will teach us lessons we need to learn.
Sometimes I’m low on resources myself and don’t have much to offer. I can, though, always sit down beside them so they aren’t alone. We can always listen. Sometimes those two things are all they need to gather the strength to continue their journey.
Many of my greatest moments in life have come when four or five of us, all lost and hurting, stumble across one another and choose to gather together for a time. We share our resources, our stories, our voices and our hearts. Nothing renews my spirit more than knowing I’m not alone in my struggles and stumbles.
Sometimes, I grow weary of seeing others stroll by me with ease and assurance, especially during the holidays when my pain seems to be so great. I watch them looking as though they have never known a day filled with fear, unhappiness, or struggle. They seem to live in a different universe than I do. And I don’t know how to get from mine to the glory of theirs. Gathering with others who are open about their broken places centers me again. It renews my knowing that I belong, I am enough, and I am worthy of love.
No one knows the path of my journey. No one knows my way home. And I cannot guide anyone else on their journey. But we can all steady each other, shelter each other, and listen to one another. Even if we are still struggling to put on our own oxygen mask we can sit down beside each other. That simple act says “I see you. You aren’t alone”.
I don’t want you to put me in your pocket and carry me on your journey. I want to go on my own. Sometimes I might need a little help. When you see me lost and broken please really do see me. Sit with me, hold my hand, and hear my words. I will do the same when I see you hurting and alone. In concert we will enable one another to all reach home for the holidays.