At church on Sunday, a woman got up and spoke from the front about how deeply she was affected by a talk I gave a few months ago on value and identity. I know who this person is but didn't know her personally, and I was so encouraged to hear that a portion of my life story had helped her sort through a rough patch in her own life.
"You simply never know the effect your words can have on someone else," she said. "I was all stirred up inside while you were speaking, and I went home and thought about what had touched me, and ended up coming to a place of peace with something I had been struggling with. I didn't even know it was bothering me until I heard your story, and I really appreciated your honesty in sharing it with us."
This moved me to tears. None of us has any idea what our experience might mean to someone else, but it won't be of any benefit if we hold it deep inside and don't share it. Coming to terms with my own fears of being who I really am in the world, and then expressing my thoughts and feelings as honestly as I can, has brought me so much freedom and joy, but it takes it to another level when we hear that it has helped someone else.
We are all living this life together, at this moment in history, and at this geographical place. I've moved all over and lived in many different cities, and a piece of me has always been left behind with the people I have met and loved along the way. And pieces of each of them live inside of me. This sense of community and connection means so much because it continually reminds us that we are not alone, and that we have something valuable to give if we will open our hearts enough to risk.
We can be easily hurt by one another, but we can also help in the most unlikely moments. And when we find out, virtually by accident, that we've made someone's life a little better, it can heal a lot of the cuts and bruises that we have sustained along our journey. Hearing from this person on Sunday, especially in a public setting like that, lifted my spirits immeasurably. It made me want to turn my heart inside out to give away what I can to see someone else find comfort when they need it most.
I realized again that none of us are in this alone, and that we each have something to give. It doesn't have to be much. Giving anything at all is better than holding back. And I want to tell those I love what they give me on a regular basis. When we have been blessed by someone, why not let them know? We might encourage them to keep going when they are feeling weary, and to keep risking even when it hurts, for you never know what might come from a little bit of honesty and openness.