Friday, March 03, 2006

Broken Things

We live in a world of broken things. Things the constantly need attention and repair. These things that break at the worst of all possible times. Cars that wont run, computers that wont compute, machines that deteriorate as soon as they are built, houses that are worn by time, and books that mold and rot. Today I drove past a chemical plant that exploded. Why? Because of metals that corrode and rust and wiring that shorts out. I am sure that the plant did not suddenly erupt into flames and kill twelve people and make many more ill with symptoms that cannot be diagnosed easily. If the investigation is thorough enough the investigators will most likely find something that time and use caused to fail that caused something else to fail that lead to death and destruction. But yet we accept these risks every day. We drive cars for thousands of miles on them and then some small overlooked thing causes them to quit. We use appliances every day that have worked for hundreds of hours and then some small thing – a loose screw, a bad wire, or faulty switch cause them to catch fire and burn down our homes. Rarely is the cause of these things some catastrophic failure that could never have been prevented. But the worst of the things that fail are people.
People with broken heart and lives. We pass them every day and never know what small things in their lives will lead them to destroy the things they love. Few people wake up in the morning and decide to murder, rape, take illegal drugs, and wound others. There are small things at first. A lost love, a lost job, a shortage of money, or the death of a dream starts a chain of events that leads to a headline on the front page or a column in the obituaries. Could maintenance have prevented this? Could just one little act of kindness done at the appropriate time have staved off the pain that leads to sorrow.
I realize that sorrow and loss are a part of living in our world. No one gets through life in a rosy bed of fragrant pedals. Each person will come to a point of loss and need. And for each person it will be different. Grief is like snowflakes – no two are the same. And like snowflakes it can be a light coating or an avalanche. Some are unable to work through the light covering and some cannot bear the avalanche. However, some people have the unique talent for taking the snow and making beautiful sculptures from it. I am always amazed at a person who can brave a blizzard of troubles and then slip and fall in a flurry.
There are those who are uniquely qualified to run into the storm and rescue the ones who have fallen or been buried. These brave individuals are those who are willing to risk injury to help us when we cannot help ourselves. It may be the person who stops and changes your tire in a downpour. It may be someone who brings you soup when you are sick. It may be the brave men in uniform who run into the gunfire to end a conflict and save lives. It might be the men who enter a burning building to extinguish the blaze. It may be the one who binds a wound and takes you to a place to be cared for. Or possibly the volunteers who come to rebuild after the wrath of a storm ravage a community. Without these people our world would be unlivable.
But every one of us is capable of doing something for someone. It may be a smile at the homeless man who staggers past your house each day. It may be a kind word to a stranger who is in agony. Often it is that friend who puts their arms around you and tells you every thing will be all right. We may know that it will not be all right but having someone care enough to try to bear the burden is a comfort. Sometimes just being present during turmoil and sitting silently with a parent, wife, or child in the emergency room.
We are not all equipped to be mechanics, carpenters, firemen, police officers, EMTs and doctors, but we can all offer love and support. We can send a flower, make a phone call, or visit a lonely soul and by so doing comfort those grieving. Anyone can offer a pat on the back, a hug, or a kiss to someone who is hurting. Most of us can write letters, not necessarily long epistles, but just a short “I am thinking of you” or “Just wanted you to know I care” and lift the spirits of some lonely soul longing for contact from another human. Every one can offer someone a shoulder to cry on.
We are all capable of listening. Not judging and giving advice, but simply lending an ear to someone who needs to talk. Some of my most cherished friends are those who listened to my tales of conflict and woe. Someone said that God gave us two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we talk. Often I am afflicted with a tongue that fans the winds too long and too often, but sometimes I can just sit and hear what another needs to verbalize. Many times when I am listening I have to hold my tongue in check to refrain from giving advice. I am a fixer. I fix cars, houses, machines and I sometimes have to force my instinct to repair to stay when it wants to run loose.
We live in a world of broken things and broken people. We cannot repair everything. But just maybe we can fix a few things and make our world a happier more comfortable place to live.

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