What Can We Do? Hope and Promise for the Future

We are living in challenging times right now, and nearly everyone is feeling the strain, so what can you and I do? How can we deal with the present and have hope for the future? Let’s face it, all of us tend to see the world around us from our own little microcosm. We see our own problems as the great divide, and we don’t comprehend what challenges others may be experiencing.

For example, there are some, perhaps members of your own family or friends or neighbors, who are struggling financially because of the loss of a job or a reduction in salary. The news headlines for months have been about the large number of foreclosures, the crashing stock market, and job layoffs. For some the severity of the financial strain has brought them almost to the breaking point. Marriages are strained. Those who are alone, find themselves suffering quietly.

Meanwhile in our own microcosm of challenges we often neglect to even notice the great need others may have and what an important encouragement we could be to them just by visiting or letting them talk about their situation.

Some are quietly suffering because they lost a loved one, and now everything in life is different. Somehow everything they strained to achieve before has little meaning now.

Some have suffered a family tragedy, and someone in the family made a grave error, and children must now visit their mother or father in prison. Having been an Area Director for Prison Fellowship Ministries, I can recall the sadness in the spouses’ eyes and the confusion in the childrens’ eyes when they came to visit their dad in prison. And after they were gone, their father would be left with an empty feeling, alone, broken, and full of regret. I’m reminded of the old but true cliche, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Then there are many in our society who are recipients of a gift that keeps on giving–divorce. Families imploded, hearts broken, children thrown into a world they don’t understand, and finances and security destroyed. For some a divorce can be even more painful than the death of a loved one. If you are happily married, have you counted your blessings lately? Better yet, have you recognized that someone you know is suffering quietly because of a divorce, and have you reached out to simply encourage him or her?

The decline of the stock market has brought retirement accounts down by an average of about half their former value, and some much more than that. This has shaken millions of people who placed their security in their retirement accounts. If there is anything that can cause great stress, it is uncertainty itself. Fraud on the part of a few money managers has wiped out some retirement accounts entirely. Imagine going back to work and starting all over at the age of 65!

Then there are some who are challenged today with survival–their own. We who are blessed with good health seem to forget that so many are not. There are a thousand health issues that can create great difficulty and pain in life. My own mother at 81 years old is suffering from cancer and this past week finally lost all her hair from the intense chemotherapy treatments. I must face the reality that her death is imminent, yet her positive attitude is an encouragement to me.

When I was young and still in high school, my friends and I used to say that when we graduated from high school, we would buy a van and drive around the country. It was a grand idea, but none of us ever asked where we were going to get the money for the van or the trip. As we get older, at least from this author’s perspective, we begin to realize over time that life is not all about fun, happiness, wealth, fame, and beauty.

I am reminded of a poem by one of my favorite poets, Robert Service. In the Spell of the Yukon, he penned this:

I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy–I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it–
Came out with a fortune last fall,
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn’t all.

We tend to place so much importance in our “gold” or our retirement accounts or our bank accounts and investments. And while these things are important for a good life, I think we often forget how great the needs and suffering of others might be. Our own lives can be greatly enriched by encouraging those in need. In fact, our own needs begin to fade when we reach out to others.

How can we do that? There are many incredible organizations right in Sequim and Port Angeles. We have more volunteer organizations than any small town I have ever lived in. We have active non-profits, but we also have a number of good churches. This online newspaper offers a free service to non-profits. They can publish articles and news on this newspaper at absolutely no cost, and they can place their activities on our community calender. This is a wonderful way to connect donors and volunteers with needs in the community.

But here’s the greatest thing we can do right here in River City. Whether you are part of an organization or not, you and I can do something with great eternal value: We can reach out to a friend, a family member, a neighbor, or even a stranger who is in need of encouragement. It might be a simple conversation and a smile. It might be calling that person up and saying, “Let’s go out for coffee and chat. I’ll pick you up.” It might be offering help in some other way, or even giving money.

Do not take these suggestions lightly, because very few people actually practice these simple things. The vast majority of those who are suffering today will be left alone to suffer because no one will reach out to them, unless . . . you or I do. I start today with this article, hoping it will encourage someone. How will you start today?

[Photo by Chuck Marunde]

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