No one is impervious to pain—it is part of the human experience. The thing to remember when pain comes knocking at your door, and it will, is it not the challenge but how we respond, that creates the person we will be tomorrow.
The increased homeless situation where I live has been pulling at my heart and brought about a lot of reflection. Why is it that I can’t leave the parking lot of a store without encountering at least one person with a sign asking for help? I don’t remember this being the case 10 or 20 years ago. Are there more people in trouble, or is the situation more transparent now than it used to be?
I can remember my dad talking about people whom he would encounter on the streets of Chicago asking for money for coffee. His solution was to say, “Let me buy you a cup of coffee and a donut,” because he didn’t want any of his money to go to alcohol or drugs. Some would take him up on the offer and some would not.
I am aware, just as my dad was, that some of those begging are scam artists, and some are going to use the money for alcohol or drugs. When I have stopped and talked to those asking for money, I find that many are the product of unfortunate situations or negative beliefs that distorted their perceptions and compromised their ability to respond productively to a crisis.
But what happens when times are really tough and you feel you have run out of options? How do you respond?
Will you blame someone else for the problem, respond with “I can’t deal with this!” or ask “Why me?” Or will you just focus your energy on what needs to happen and handle the situation? Remember, when we are stressed, the subconscious mind, which is where our early childhood beliefs, perceptions, and programmed behavior are stored, will take over.
When our children were very young, my family was broadsided by a very difficult situation that challenged every fiber of my being and brought us to our knees financially. After I got over the initial shock, a force within me rose to the surface. I found myself fighting back and implementing things I wasn’t aware that I was capable of. It was a very difficult time, yet simultaneously, a time of great personal growth. While I certainly would not want to relive that experience, in retrospect, I am very grateful for the insights, inner strength, and growth it provided me with.
I think about that time often when I see someone standing on the corner begging or hear about someone’s hardship. So how do I respond? It depends on the day, the situation, and my gut feeling. I try to be present, honest, non-judgmental, and compassionate. I try to look at their situation as “their path,” and ask myself if there is anything I can offer to make their journey less painful. I try to listen to their stories and see what they are trying to learn or resolve and then reflect it back to them in hopes of helping them move forward. I also try to remember that we create what we believe and when we change those beliefs we can change our whole life.
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