She panned the room slowly, her brown pixie-cut hair shining in the sunlight that shone through the tiny window near the ceiling. It did look different now. She shoved the thick glasses higher up on her pert nose and looked harder. Now she could see the dust balls atop the army green footlocker, the dirt clods clinging to the ramshackle plow, straw poking out of the stacked crates, ropes looped over rusty nails jutting out of the wall, dark gray lines netting the sides of clanky buckets like veins, the ridges circling the cane fishing pole leaning against the wall, empty dust-frosted preserve jars lining the rickety shelves, the delicate weave of her grandmother’s flower basket sitting empty on the bottom shelf of a drawered table.
She shuffled across the concrete floor, listening to the grit scrape with every step. Stopping, she leaned over and studied it. It glinted in the slanted sunlight like little slivers of glass. A black ant crept up to one and shoved it along like a tiny bulldozer. At first she was startled; she had never seen an ant before, but now… She shoved her glasses up again. A whole bunch of ants darted crazily around the center pole of the old garage. She skipped over but it was only an old dead roach lying on its back, so she sauntered back to the corner.
For a while she roamed around with her head up, gazing at the pine rafters and silvery spiderwebs until she tripped over an old footlocker and sprawled over the top on her poochy stomach. It was too bad glasses didn’t go all the way down her face.
With the footlocker before her, she had found a new interest. The lock hung open and she took it off and lifted the metal latch. Her grandmother’s lace garden hat lay on top, a pair of gloves under its floppy brim. Red and yellow flowered aprons with gnarled strings, a caramel colored walking cane, a yellow-stained baptismal robe, a pair of steel rimmed spectacles wrapped in a once-white lace handkerchief; she fished beneath all these before she found what she wanted—a huge rusty cowbell whose clang sounded more like a clonk. She held it up to her ear and listened two times, three and another just for good measure. Then she held it up over her head and watched the clapper swing from side to side. So that’s how it worked! She knew there was a metal jobbie in there but how it made the clonk was beyond the comprehension of her four year old mind—until now.
She closed the top of the locker and set the bell on top. Taking a step back to gaze at it, her heel landed on the rake tines and the handle slammed against the back of her head. It was too bad glasses didn’t go all the way around her head, too.
She set it up against the wall and looked at the floor. It was really dirty. And that big, hairy janitor’s broom leaned against the opposite wall just itching to sweep some.
She took it by the middle of the handle and lugged it across the floor to the back corner. It was longer than she was and she had to stand on her toes to reach the end of the handle, but when she pulled it down the broom end slid out so-o-o far in front of her. After a half dozen pushes, she was worn out. She yanked up her striped tee shirt and wiped the sweat off her face, sticking her finger up under the bridge of her glasses to get to her nose. It was too bad glasses had to sit on her nose. She brushed her hands off on her red corduroy pants and reached up for another swoosh. That pile of dustballs, dirt, sawdust, and spider webs wasn’t big enough for her to quit just yet, even though a big red blister was rising on the inside of her thumb.
But she only had time for three more swooshes before she had to stop and listen.
“Denie!” came the call again.
Oh well, she had just as soon stop anyway. Something else needed tending to. She had seen lines in her grandmother’s face.
I wrote that when I was 17. It won a couple of prizes, but that’s not why I have posted it today.
I doubt that as a four year old I had any sense of other people’s troubles, but as a 17 year old I must have begun to see one of the biggest problems a trial in your life can give you—an inability to see the pain others are going through. All you can see is your own. All you can feel is your own. All you care about is your own.
Contrast that to our Lord. He led a difficult life, a poor man with no belongings, ridiculed by others and in danger more than once, yet all he did was serve anyone who needed him. As he anticipated what was coming the night before his death, he taught his disciples, concerned about how they would handle what lay ahead. As he hung on a cross in hideous pain, he worried about his mother, seeing to her care.
How do we do when we are suffering? Is it all about us? Can we even tolerate hearing that someone else might be going through something even worse? Believe it or not, I have seen people become angry when the attention shifts to someone else who is suffering, perhaps even more. Is that how a follower of Christ, one who walks in his footsteps behaves? Of course it’s difficult. Of course you are in need of help and service. But an attitude of selfishness that denies others the same help they themselves crave is inexcusable.
My new glasses helped me see more than a blur of moving colors for the first time in my four years of life, yet, as the story shows, they had their limitations. You could only see what was right in front of you. “It’s too bad they don’t---“ fill in the blank, I have thought all my life. Now I think, it’s too bad glasses don’t help us look inside our own hearts too.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2Cor 1:3-4