Once, as I was sitting by a lake, depressed, contemplating how easy it would be to drown, an older woman sat down next to me. She must've noticed how down I was because she asked me, "what's got you so low today, son?"
I drew a deep breath, and said, "ma'am, I feel like a failure. I have no money, no prospects, no future, and I wonder if I should just die already. I haven't done anything worthwhile and have only been a drag on my friends. If I still have any."
She sighed. "I see. Well, let me ask you something, what do you do for a living?"
"I'm a teacher."
"Hmm....how many people a day do you work with?"
"Two or three adults. I'm an English teacher for those who can't speak."
"Are you a good teacher?"
"I think so. It takes a lot out of me, but it's worth it."
"I see. Okay. There are two or three people whose lives you touch per day. Are you impatient with them? Yell at them? Make fun of their mistakes?"
"Oh, Hell no, ma'am! That would be wrong. These folks need encouragement to learn. They have to work during the day, or be with their kids. Most of the time, they feel they can't speak and are embarassed to do so. They NEED to be built up so they can learn."
"Well, that sounds mighty important to me."
"Yeah, I suppose."
"You sound like you were hurt a lot in life."
"You could say that."
"But you grew from that. You're a better person than the people who hurt you."
"And look at you now, talking to an old lady who just walked up to you. You could've told me to go away. You didn't. I don't think your compassion ends in the classroom, either. Tell me, how do you deal with the hurt?"
"I talk to others who've been hurt the same way. They help me, I help them."
"Do you ever wonder if your words matter to them?"
"Sometimes, heck, most of the time, no."
"Let me tell you something, young man. When you're put on this Earth, you're supposed to reach out. You're a rock thrown into the water. You make ripples. Sometimes, your ripples cross others and change their course. Sure, you're not perfect, but I think that sometimes the good that you do, the kindness that you show, touches a lot of people and makes a difference. How many people have been hurt like you? How many people hear only unkindness all their lives? How many folks get rideculed when they want to improve themselves?
"Son, your actions, whatever you do, shows people who don't hear enough encouragement that there are GOOD folks out there. More than bad people. There are lives that you've saved, minds that you've broadened, just by doing one nice thing for a body that needed it at the worst time in their lives. You may never SEE it, but I know that it's happened. So what if you've got no money or are less than perfect? Who cares? You're so much better than you know. You CARE.
"So you keep going, my young man. You keep doing what you can do. Make yourself a better person. NEVER forget that, while you need to work on your weaknesses and God ain't done with you yet, that you are so much more important than how you fail to measure up."
This old woman, who didn't know me from Adam, squeezed my shoulder and smiled at me, then walked away. I looked down at the sand and back up, wanting to shout out "thank you!" But she wasn't there. There was no place for her to fade into, no trees, shrubs or rocks for her to walk behind, but she was gone from the beach like she was never there. And I glanced back down on the sand.
There were no footprints.
None. Not where she was standing, and none from where she walked up to me and away.
People say there are no angels, and that God doesn't care about us anymore.
They're wrong with both things. I know it now.
-From a dream I had.
Peace and love,
There are reasons I'm taking medication. They're called "other people." - Me, displaying my anti-social tendancies