“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” (Plato)
This quite famous and well published quote serves as the basis for one of the most powerful lessons that we can teach the youth of today. Kindness should be offered at all times, to all humans and animals alike regardless of their assumed positions in society and the flaws that we might choose to perceive in them. Compassion is not something that we offer simply to those who gain our approval, it’s meant to be given to everyone, freely. Everyone has the right to be treated with respect and fairness. We are all part of God’s perfect creation, and no one individual has the right to judge the life that another has chosen to live. We are not in that person’s shoes, and we do not know what kind of battle they may be fighting. What’s seen on the surface rarely reveals what’s going on inside or behind the scenes. I know this because I’ve lived it.
A few years ago when I was in the grips of the most devastating anxiety that I had ever known, I became agoraphobic. Life grew to be about nothing other than survival for me. Everything was a battle. Fear began limiting my life in such powerful ways that I began to feel incapable of completing even the most basic tasks necessary for my existence. My comfort zone was small and rigid. Really the only place that I felt capable of existing was within the walls of my 1,100 square foot apartment. And even there, things were not by any means pleasant. But I had sustained myself there, and I knew that I could somehow manage to make it to the next day if I remained at home. So that’s what I did. Venturing outside to do anything was an absolutely terrifying experience for me. There were days that I couldn’t venture to the ATM a half mile up the road. And there were even times when I didn’t feel comfortable walking the trash down to the end of the hallway or checking my mail in another part of the building. It’s amazing what the mind will do when it’s ravaged by fear.
One the most difficult tasks for me during that period of my life was going grocery shopping. I absolutely despised the idea of spending any amount of time there. So it became an emergency only type of trip for me. I felt horribly claustrophobic when entering the grocery store. My throat would close up, my heart would begin to race, my hands would get clammy, then moments later I’d find myself feeling lightheaded and I’d run out of the store. And I didn’t feel strong enough mentally at that point to really challenge my fears, so I avoided the supermarket altogether and sought out an alternative means for restocking my pantry with the basics necessary for my survival.
Just up the road from my apartment was a Rite Aid store. Certainly not an ideal place to do grocery shopping, but they did carry several of the necessities on my list. And I knew that the store was free of crowds, and most importantly, that I could be in and out quickly. But even with those perceived benefits in mind, Rite Aid would have appeared just as intimidating as any other store to me if it hadn’t been for the one incredibly kind-hearted employee that I met while shopping there. I will never forget her, because she made my life sustainable.
I could not even tell you her name today, but I can remember vividly the smile that she offered me every time that I arrived in the store. She was an older woman and she addressed me as she would have done one of her own grandkids. She always called me “sweetheart” and engaged me in a short little conversation at the check-out register. Little did she know that those seemingly simple interactions were likely to be the only face to face conversations that I would have with anyone during the course of the entire week. And they were so very meaningful to me. Because in those moments when we connected I felt like a normal, well-functioning member of society again. She reminded me that not all was lost at a time when I found myself sincerely doubting my ability to ever again restore my life. She gave me hope and she sustained me with her kindness. And she never had any idea what type of incredibly difficult battle I was fighting, she simply led with her heart and in many ways, she saved my life.
Rite Aid became a bit of a comfort zone for me during the time that I dealt with agoraphobia. Ultimately, it was clear that I would need to break away from feeling confined to a pharmacy for all of my shopping needs, but for the emergency survival situation that I found myself in during that period of my life, God sent me an angel. He made a way where there wasn’t one. And she made me feel comfortable and confident again. I was able to restock my pantry and find the strength to begin challenging my fears. And I’ll be forever indebted to her for her kindness. I am certain that she has no idea the impact that she had on my life.
Hebrews 13:2 reads, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Be kind always. You may never know how profound an impact your simple act of compassion may have on someone’s life. And like me, you may find yourself entertaining an angel without even knowing it.
May God Bless!