(Photo by Richard Shaw)
These scenarios can apply to anyone. The smiling teacher next door or the students we teach. Sometimes, the struggle is obvious and shines like a naked light bulb in an empty room. Other times, the situations are more hidden, illusive, even unknown to the people around us. The scariest can be when you realize someone has been struggling for miles, right in front of you on the same journey, yet you were blind to their pain.
As the days get shorter and darker, as winter creeps in and the air is cold, I am reminded that people are not always as they seem. There is very real pain that lies within many of us, pain that we often do not reveal easily or willingly. For our students, it often bubbles to the surface through undesirable behaviors that are dealt with in frustration and consequences, all devoid of hope.
How do we recognize this pain? How do we help? What hope can we bring to those that feel deep, personal devastation, even if it is fleeting? Do we stop when we think someone isn't acting like themself and take a moment to offer a partner in exploring the hope that lies at the end of each of our struggles? Or, do we busy through the day only worried about ourselves and our own lives?
Let us not forgot the hope that the human connection brings. Being in tune to the feelings, emotions, and actions of those in your care, and those you care about, can be the most powerful hope you can offer. A moment to check-in, say hello, look deeply into another's face and search for their feelings at that moment. A moment to offer your attention to explore and listen if there is something more to be expressed.
As we move into this holiday season, a time that may bring more pain than joy for some of our families and friends, I will take time to observe fully and acknowledge openly the feelings of others. I will try, in moments of my struggle, to find the place where devastation and hope collide, crash together, bring light into the darkness. I challenge you to be this light in another's life, and to accept the light of others when you feel such darkness. Because together we can do that which we cannot do alone.