Over the past five years, I have spent time in the homes of about 200 clients, and each one impacts me in a different way. I wish my memory could retain the faces and details of each visit, but many stories begin to fade over time. However, there are some encounters that are forever seared on my mind.
On this recent trip to Kenya, I visited the home of a woman named Elizabeth. Not unlike most of the homes, it was dark and dingy. The six of us could barely crowd into the small living room. In the corner were stacks of schoolbooks that would intimidate the brightest student. Despite Elizabeth’s quiet demeanor, we could tell that she was a strong, resilient woman. She was a single mother caring for four young children under the age of 10 and going to school to complete her high school education.
When our visit came to a close, we asked Elizabeth a question that we ask everyone, “How can we pray for you?” Her response was simple but unforgettable.
“I have a good life,” she said without hesitation. There was not an ounce of self-pity.
Recently, I read a famous quote by Billy Graham. He said, “Tears shed for self are tears of weakness, but tears shed for others are a sign of strength.”
My experience with Elizabeth has come to mind almost daily and brought new perspective to my life. She had a home, good health, four beautiful children, the opportunity to be educated, and a community of friends through the CARE for AIDS center. For her, she couldn’t imagine what more she could possibly need or want. She felt as if she was the luckiest person in Kenya, and I felt like the luckiest guy for knowing her.
As I am on the brink of fatherhood, I pray that I can shed less tears (literal or figurative) for myself and more tears for and with the people around me. I hope I can remain grounded in times of challenge, not detached or disengaged, and remember the countless blessings I have been given. While at the same time, I want to be able to enter into the suffering of others and experience the pain they are experiencing. Only then will I continue to grow and become more like Christ, and then, together, we can begin solving problems from a place of mutual brokenness, instead of from a place of pity or guilt.
I will leave you with this quote from Melinda Gates…
“In the course of your lives, perhaps without any plan on your part, you’ll come to see suffering that will break your heart. When it happens, and it will, don’t turn away from it; turn towards it. That is the moment change is born.”