There were a few young boys who lived near our house in Nakuru, Kenya. They’d often approach us when we were out buying groceries. And even though they didn’t speak the same language as us, they still managed to communicate. A simple gesture was enough.
All they wanted was some spare change to buy glue. And in sniffing the fumes of that glue, just maybe they could get high enough to forget. To forget that they hadn’t eaten a meal for days. To forget that their bodies were tired and broken. To forget the cold nights out on the streets – breathing the foul smoke of a burning tire for the sake of staying warm. To forget that no one wanted them.
When I used to work downtown, I passed the same old man nearly every day. He had a white beard and a knotted cane. And to everyone who passed, he offered a song of blessing – though it was out of tune and heavyhearted.
And on those days filled with icy rain or gusting winds, you could still see him sitting there on that black, upside-down crate. He’d hold out an empty paper cup, hoping that the blessings in his songs would come back to him – even if they were only enough for a bite to eat, a bed to sleep on, or a drink to warm against the cold winter nights.
I once saw a man on the train platform. He walked, pacing back and forth and staring blankly off into the distance. He looked exhausted. When the train arrived, he boarded the same car as I did.
He was crying. He hadn’t slept in 48 hours. His wife had died the day before, and he was alone. It was New Years Eve.
I remember these people. I remember their pain.
Why must they bear such suffering? Why must they be alone and without hope?
Such hardship. Such heartache. How can I stand in the face of it all? It often feels I am so powerless – so helpless.
standing in the storm
amid the rain of lightning
breaking all around
and beneath the thunder’s roar
who shall hear the falling tears
There are times where the only thing we can do is allow ourselves to embrace the hurt. We don’t have to have the answers. It is enough that we care.
Sometimes the only appropriate response is tears.