In the busyness of our journeys, I often find myself unaware of where I was. I have a pretty good idea where I am, but the difference from yesterday or the day before is lost. Catching up with a friend who has been on an extended travel schedule reminded me of how much has changed since we last met. Our virtual conversations in the absence of being together shielded me from the changes that we have gone through.
The difference was tangible from the beginning of our conversation. The carefree girl had morphed into a thoughtful woman. While the joy of living was still present, the carelessness of yesteryear had been tempered and shaped by the natural pains that seem to always travel with growing older.
As the stories unfolded, it became increasingly clear how life has touched her and others in ways we did not anticipate. It was as if Life had “brought us into hardscrabble country, pushed us to our very limit.” (Psalm 66.11) Sickness, accidents, and loss come in many forms. The unwelcome reality is that fear, uncertainty, and doubts travel with them. Anticipation and preparation are rarely enough to prepare us for what is coming.
The one aspect that stood out in the stories we shared was the inspiration we found when Hope trumped everything that life has put in its way. The inspiration and strength that comes from an individual willing to stand tall in the face of overwhelming odds cannot be measured. In the shadows of a willingness to press on with a smile, one finds it hard to complain. When one witnesses another taking life head on and making a difference despite the odds, one is confronted with an invitation and a calling.
You and I have a window in our lives where we can be the difference to those around us. Yes, the odds are stacked against us. It is true that life is painful, often brutally unfair. It is also true that we can embrace compassion, community, and hope as we take one step followed by another.