Once I noticed the little girl crying, I could not not think about it.
Being at an elementary school to meet with a 4th grader I mentor, I was sensitive to the little girl’s privacy and space. Had this happened at the church I pastor, I wouldn’t have felt the same nudge to maintain my distance.
After all, at least two teachers had stopped to talk with her.
Her situation wasn’t desperate or an emergency, but I still could not really focus on anything else. After all, I’d just preached on our “participating in Christ’s suffering” in Philippians 3. Part of what Paul is writing about, I argued, is that we must be willing to feel.
And, oh, was I feeling. So I was praying. But I wasn’t willing only to pray, so I decided I would ask a teacher.
I caught one of the teachers on lunch duty and asked. Of course, I started with, “I realize this may be none of my business….”
“She’s homesick.” Then the teacher added, “and she sees these tables (where I was sitting) other parents come to see their kids, and it doesn’t help.”
I was an adult there to visit a child. Not my child. Yet, my actions, to a homesick little girl, could add to her feelings of homesickness. But my visit wasn’t aimed at her.
Almost every time there is a disaster somewhere, and someone gives thanks for being spared, someone else replies with some version of “Why are you thankful? Are you saying God struck down the people who weren’t spared?”
To be fair, with almost every disaster, it is a matter of minutes before someone somewhere casts judgment, and claims God sent the disaster.
But most of us, in expressing thanks, or in simply trying to do something good (like visit a child at lunch), aren’t aiming our intentions at you.
And I’ll try to remember this next time I’m the hurt or grieving one and I observe someone experiencing joy.
Because we all get to live both sides of this one.