Thursday, June 19, 2008

Our Troubles Fill Us Up

I have two aunts who live within a few blocks of each other. They are best friends and have surprisingly similar lives. One bought a new house, the other bought a house around the corner. One got a government job, the other got a government job. One lost a bunch of weight, the other lost a bunch of weight. They look just alike and sound eerily similar on the phone. And their kids grew up practically as siblings.

But there is one big difference between them. My one aunt, we'll call her Emily, has a boy who is the All-American kid. He's tall and blond and athletic and the picture of health. The other aunt, we'll call her Anna, has a boy who is the same age, but had terrible health problems from the day he was born. His heart was backwards, on the wrong side, and full of holes. His spine was crooked and his lungs were weak. He started his young life with surgery after surgery that continued year after year after year. I remember watching my aunt Anna going through heart-wrenching stress and fear each time her boy would go in for another surgery. It never seemed to get any better and it was always one thing after another. It was a constant struggle to keep this little boy alive and well.

Then one day my Aunt Emily's boy got sick. The boy who had never been sick a day in his life was going into surgery. He had to have his appendix out and Emily was beside herself with worry. I remember thinking at the time that this should be no big deal for her. How could she be so worried and scared? It was just an appendix--people had this surgery all the time. And besides that, look at all that Anna had gone through with her son. How could that compare?

But then I watched Emily cry and pray for her son and I realized that her trouble--right then--was filling her up. I couldn't compare the trouble Anna had gone through with the trouble Emily was going through now. There was just no comparison. Her trouble, at that time while much different than Anna's, filled her with just as much pain and anxiety.

I know this is a long way to get to my point. But for me this experience illustrated how easy it is to judge other people's circumstances and compare. We say, "But my troubles are so much worse than hers." or conversely, "My troubles are so insignificant compared to hers."

But maybe we just can't judge trouble that way. Maybe whatever trouble we are experiencing at the time fills us up and the difference is really just how we choose to react to it.


Laura said...

I love how you phrased this. I completely agree. We each have our own capacities for trials and it just isn't fair to compare everyone's personal hell.

DeLaina said...