This is the time of year that’s supposed to be festive, with special emphasis placed on our love and sharing with family and friends. For many, however, its a time of pain and sad news, followed by deep reflection and the opportunity to transform the pain into some kind of contentment.
I didn’t start out to write this blog post… the idea just came up after speaking with an old friend on the phone. This person has been a dear friend for almost forty years because I’ve found him to be impeccably honest, loyal, and heart-centered. He is truly a friend in need – serving, basically, a life prison sentence for something he didn’t do.
During and after our conversation with my friend I felt both happy and sad . . . happy that his attitude is so strong, charitable, gracious and inward-looking, and sad because my wife and I may never see him free again. He and his devoted wife have recently lost his last appeal, save for a “Hail Mary” chance at getting out on a Habeas Corpus request.
The odds of this succeeding are very slight, and his wife has made the hard decision to get a divorce so she can move on… with his blessings. Her devotion is solid – she has raised and spent over $200K for his defense over the past six years!
I’ve not mentioned my friend’s plight in my blogs before since there was always the chance he would be released due to his obvious innocence. But, after three trials brought on by a most persistent prosecutor, and a judge who severely ham-strung the defense, he was convicted. Now after three failed appeals the doors to justice are closing, apparently for good.
I feel anger and sadness mixed with a deep feeling that all is still right with the world. Both my friend and I have chosen to reflect on all of this without sinking into despair or denial. Tough choice.
This reflection is tough for the simple reason that a kind of nihilism can quickly sets in, i.e, what’s it all about? I naturally want answers, but realize none may come and I choose to stay strong for my friend. So I stand astride a paradox – a decision to remain content and self-aware in my life while at the same time dealing with the sad fate of someone strongly connected with me.
Is it easier to endure suffering, or watch others suffer while knowing there is nothing you can do? I often think the former is easier. At least when I endured four hospital operations this year, I was comforted in the fact that “this too shall pass.” And it did. With the ongoing suffering of others, however, that phrase loses much of its appeal.
While my friend’s plight is the hardest to digest, there are others . . . I have another friend who lost over $4.2 million eleven years ago when the 2004 Tsunami hit Galle, Sri Lanka, and is still struggling to get on his feet. Our recent visit there lifted his spirits – and we’ve always done what we can to help he and his family – but to date he has seemed incapable of helping himself.
My wife and I also have good news come to us from time to time. There are births of another generation, and reports from other nieces, nephews, and family members about their ongoing growth opportunities and celebrations. We also celebrated with a neighbor who just turned 92. He’s married to an “older woman” who will turn 94 in August!
Do you know someone who is suffering (or celebrating)? Reach out and connect with them. Keep your heart open and just listen. Often this is the only thing that matters. Also, let me know your experiences; leave a comment and share with me and others.
God bless, and use this Holiday Season for reaching out to others in need. You will be surprised what it will do for you!