Everyone faces hardship. In different degrees and at different stages in our lives—we all deal with something hard and uncomfortable.
It comes into our lives and tests us. Jabbing and jabbing and jabbing at our ribs with a pointed finger until we feel overwhelmed and unsure.
We struggle our way through sleepless nights, or depression, or worries about money, or divorce or scares related to our health. Cancer and debt and anxiety and death. We weep and we yell and we grasp onto whatever good we can find so tightly that our knuckles go white, and we wait until the darkness subsides. And when and if it does, we are stronger. We are triumphant that we won this leg of the race. That we overcame.
But sometimes, we can’t.
Sometimes, we are broken open.
There are times when we feel things so deeply, and they are so dark and real that we can’t come up for air. We can’t see any possibility other than suffering and hurt. And that moment, that exact distinct point in time is when we, as humans, are needed. When we need each other.
When I was in Kenya, I would watch young girls, maybe 8 years old, walking down dirt paths, barefoot with a baby sibling slung over their backs, wrapped tightly in cloth. As the truck I was traveling in would pass them, the girls would look up at us and smile so broadly and genuinely, my eyes would instantly fill with tears.
Those girls were likely raised on the backs of their older siblings. Or their mothers. They likely sleep shoulder to shoulder with family members. They grow up surrounded by something we all need. They have community. They have one another.
And this is not to say that we don’t have it at home. In our western culture and developed countries, you can find community and connection. But when did it become the norm to not wave and say hello as you pass people on the street? When did it become commonplace to stop looking a stranger in the eye when you speak to them?
Wherever we live and whatever our cultural norms, humans need each other. We all just want to be seen and heard and understood.
I’m not saying anything new, I realize. I know that most of us know this. But it feels like we’re all collectively forgetting it. Like humanity is slipping through our fingers as we separate babies from mothers and allow hate-filled slurs to be put out into the universe and shoot kids in schools. And as postpartum mothers commit suicide because they can’t navigate their pain.
When I was dancing with a Mama in a small community in Kenya, she sang to me in Swahili, a language I don’t understand at all. She looked me in the eye and flashed her bright smile, and I decided to hold her gaze. As uncomfortable as it made me, I locked my eyes with hers and stayed that way. We had no words to share between us. But the goosebumps on my arms and the lump in my throat reminded me of what I’ve been searching for—what we’re all searching for.
Humanity. Love. Connection. Understanding. Acceptance.
I’m guilty of forgetting this. I haven’t called someone on the phone in ages. I get miffed when someone is rude to me. But we are so much stronger when we are kinder. When we love. When we help one another. When we reach out.
One of my tasks at the school build site we were working on in Kenya was to saw through rebar. As I was cutting, I looked around me and felt discouraged by the enormity of the job. I was doing a very small part of the bigger project. The foreman of the build site saw me and walked over. He looked me in the eye, and in the very little English he knew, he said, “Thank you. You make me happy inside my heart."
If only we all did that. If only we all pieced together a few small words to tell someone they’re appreciated. That they matter.
If only we remembered the importance and power of humanity and love and kindness.
We all feel the pressure and the pain at some point in our lives. But I want you to know that if you're on the verge of being broken open, you matter. There is someone in your life who values you and needs you and loves you. And if you talk to them, they will listen.
There is someone on this earth who is happy inside their heart because you are you. Because you exist.
If we can remember this and live this, maybe there is hope for everyone.
Maybe then we wouldn’t find ourselves broken open.