Sunday, January 22, 2012
Although I'm right on time, it appears I am actually late. Everyone is seated - all the good spots taken - and I scan the room hoping that the open chairs I see are not the only ones available. I don't want to sit near her. Seeing no other options, I make my way to the table at the back, trying to mentally prepare. I wanted to enjoy myself today, but I can see now that's not going to happen.
Always dramatic and depressed, she never has anything good to say. There's always something wrong, and if anyone makes the mistake of asking her how she is doing, that person is trapped for what seems an eternity. She considers proper etiquette and exchange of pleasantries an invitation for therapy. Her countenance, demeanor, and attitude attach to those in close proximity, sucking joy and depleting spirit.
Not truly ready but expecting the worst, I sit down. "Hey, how are you?" I say, pretending to care through my fake smile. Clutching the edge of my chair, I'm already formulating my response and looking for a way of escape: It needs to sound heart-felt, but not gratuitous enough to allow for elaboration. If she goes on for too long, I'll pretend I need to go to the restroom.
Hands folding napkin, eyes shining but sullen, she dejectedly looks into my face. "Fine," she responds in monotone voice. "You don't have to sit here if you don't want to. I'm sure your friends will squeeze you in at their table." "I'm fine right here," I say with a smile, but this time it's not fake, for in the moment she looked into my eyes I saw my own reflection.
I used to be the one surrounded by empty chairs, desperately longing for a friend. I was once depressed, ever-seeking, always lonely. I remember reaching out, hoping and praying someone would care enough to listen - not just hear - if only for a brief moment. Empty chairs were the outward sign of my inner struggle - the manifestation of my greatest fear, and each one stood as a tribute to the oppression that kept me bound. Each one mocked, laughed, and tortured my exhausted soul.
Those surrounded by empty chairs are usually the ones who need us - need Him - most. May we learn to view them not as a warning, but as an opportunity to be light in darkness, hope in desperation, help for the hurting. Just as we may never know what those empty chairs represent, we may never realize the impact filling one of them can have.
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. - Philo
Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia
'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' - Matthew 25:40 (NIV)
Deidra Manning, Author
Devotions from the Middle
Blog: The Middle