As soon as I noticed one, they were everywhere. It’s happened more than once. The first time may have been when I first got my Mustang. As I drove it down the highway, I saw more Mustangs. Hey, the world has more than just one. The same thing happened with my next car, and the one after that. I thought it was a funny little car phenomenon. But it was so much more than cars.
I was not prepared for the next phase of this. As soon as Prajna and I learned that we were expecting our first child, suddenly I saw pregnant women everywhere. What, had we started a trend? What was with all the moms to be around the mall?
It didn’t take much thought to realize what was happening. They had been there all along. It was only since we experienced it that we began to notice others in the same condition. It happened when I drove a different car, I was aware of what I was in and spotted more like mine. The same with pregnant women, we noticed them because we were mindful. Later in my life, I suddenly noticed how many people wore eyeglasses. It wasn’t that I was that blind without them, but when I started wearing them, I became aware that there were plenty of people just like me. The first time I got caught in the rain with them, I thought to myself, hey, lots of other people have this problem of rain spots too. Most recently, I noticed many other people walking with a cane. Up until just a few weeks ago, I had no idea people even did that.
We’re really not so different from each other. I can walk down the street and notice someone wearing the same kind of shoes as me, lots of people with eyeglasses, and even though my truck is an older model, I can spot another one like mine right away.
There are things only on the outside. When I stop to think about how alike were are in visible ways, it seems inevitable that we are a lot alike inside too.
With all the people out there, there must be more who don’t care for raw broccoli but love it when it’s cooked well. Someone else in the world must think the sound of wind blowing through pine trees is the most beautiful noise in the world. I know there are lots of people who suffer from restless leg syndrome and tinnitus, maybe they wear eyeglasses and need to walk with a cane sometimes too.
But then go deeper down. How many people do I walk past everyday who have the same anxieties as me? Who else, when no-one is around, stops and takes a deep breath, thinking: Okay, I can do this… I hope. How many of us struggle with hurts, habits and hang-ups that we think that no-one else in the world understands?
Imagine if one day everything we kept hidden was displayed on a floating sign over our head that followed us around. If would be like the day I got my eyeglasses, but for everyone. Suddenly we would see that there are so many other people out there who battle addictions, suffer from anxiety, feel lost or confused, and worst of all, they think that they are alone and no-one understands. But if the day came that everyone had a sign saying what they struggled with, would there be looks of recognition? Would people stop and say to someone: you too?
There will never come a day when we have these signs displaying the burdens we carry. I think that the best we can do for now is be kind, starting with a smile or caring word. Doing anything to indicate that we also are weighed down with our own issues can help others connect to us. Because if I’ve learned anything on my road to recovery, it’s that I can’t travel it alone. And another thing, once I took that invisible sign that listed what was hurting me, and let other folks know what was written on it, those hurts were not as strong anymore.
There are safe places to go to where there are others who have revealed what’s on their sign of hurts. That’s good news. But even better news, sharing the hurts with others, reaching out and accepting help, can begin the healing.