In less than a year, in my community, there were two overt and heartbreaking losses: a child died, and a family’s house burned down.
Heartbreaking, tragic losses, impossible to keep hidden. And my community rallied to support these families with generosity and action.
Acts of kindness through donations, meals and coordinated efforts to comfort the pain from unimaginable losses and suffering. To live in a community and witness so much generosity has been inspiring and beautiful, acts of love and support in the midst of suffering.
Suffering is something I hear every day at work. As a psychologist, with two decades of experience, I wouldn’t say I’m at ease or comfortable with suffering. But over time, experience, and years clocked on the planet, I have accepted: suffering is part of living.
With recent events in my community combined with an unusually long and stressful day at work I thought:
Where’s the casserole for all of those people suffering from things not as overt?
What about the devastation from infidelity, job loss, sexual assault, divorce, family medical emergencies, acts of violence, and chronic illness?
Where’s the casserole for the heartbreak after a parent with Alzheimer’s no longer recognizes her daughter?
Or the meal for the family who has a teenager struggling with depression recently hospitalized?
And where’s the casserole for the family whose parents just separated?
Where’s the casserole for these situations and circumstances?
The casseroles for the suffering we may never see?
The suffering happening right now we may never know about?
Here’s what I know: suffering is everywhere.
I hear about it at work, I see it on the news and in my community, I know about it because friends and family have endured it, and I’ve experienced it in my life.
You can not move through life without experiencing suffering.
If we made casseroles for everyone who was struggling and suffering, we’d be baking and cooking all day, and it’s just not possible.
But what is possible is that we can acknowledge suffering exists.
And we can choose to help one another, even when we don’t know the story or all the details.
Perhaps the thought about the amount of suffering going on in the world feels so overwhelming you want to say:
It’s just too much, I can’t even think about it! Besides, how can I ever make a difference?
And my answer is, you do make a difference, more than you will ever know.
If we are ever going move forward and create a more peaceful and loving world, we have to recognize peace, love and compassion begins within ourselves. It starts within our homes, and we have to teach it to our children.
We have to live it every day through our thoughts, words, and actions.
We have to recognize there are more similarities between us than there are differences.
We have to acknowledge we have the power to make a positive difference in someone’s life albeit one gesture at a time.
And while we can never take away suffering entirely, we can help one another carry it.
We can be kind and compassionate to one another.
We can move away from judgment into awareness and understanding that many people around us are struggling in ways we will likely never know.
So go ahead and make that metaphorical casserole: use the ingredients of awareness, kindness, and compassion.
And be sure to serve it with a side patience, love, and understanding that we are all more connected than we are disconnected from one another.
Never underestimate the power of a smile, the kindness of holding a door open for someone and being patient and kind towards others when you’re having a tough day.
And when you know someone is suffering pay attention and ask:
How can I help? Is there anything you need? Please know I am here for you.
There’s no protocol or casseroles for certain situations and life events.
But there is kindness and compassion, which costs nothing, and is a gift we can give to one another.
Because the reality is, so many people are fighting personal battles that we may never know.
© Copyright Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2017
If you’d like to read about how to teach your children kindness and compassion, please read: 12 Tips on How to Raise Kind Children.