I have a dear friend (miss you, Gini) who likes to say “Pain is personal.” Since she’s had more than her fair share of troubles to deal with, I’m inclined to go with her insight on this subject. Pain is personal – we evaluate our hardships based on our own experiences and our own perceptions of how things should be. Despite our best attempts, it’s very hard to experience another person’s pain.
I’ve been reminded of my friend’s wisdom repeatedly in the last few days. The reminders have come most frequently through a little boy who is visiting the community with his family. His family is from the States and although I doubt that in their home country they are considered wealthy, they have a lot compared to anyone in this village. However, this is lost on this little boy. His first night here he complained repeatedly about a slight scratch on his finger. Additionally, in a car crammed with 18 people, he was very concerned about his comfort. When offered dinner, he wanted to know about other available options. All of this is understandable – he is used to having these things be of importance. But surrounded by kids who’s feet are so scratched up they probably will never heal, who take a seat where its given regardless of their comfort, and who are blessed just to have enough to eat, its difficult not to see the contrast. The children of this community have a broader perspective on pain and so their relation to it is much different. The things that may seem major to the little American boy are of no concern to them.
I was reminded of how personal pain is again today. I woke up with a stomach virus and spent most of the morning sleeping (quick side bar to reduce my mother’s worry – I feel much better.) After church we intended to go on our Christmas visits, delivering food, clothes and blankets to those in need. Juli had prescribed rest, and so I slept through church, but was determined to go on the home visits. It was a good day, and I believe that the four families we visited will have a better Christmas as a result. However, my slight illness quickly became of little concern when we visited the home of Hannah. Hannah is a lady who has a benign tumor in her face that due to lack of medical care has grown beyond where it’s operable. This rampant growth of cells has changed the bone structure in her face as it seeks to expand into every cavity. Even with pain medication, she hadn’t slept for three days. Despite her obvious discomfort, her gratitude for our visit was abundantly expressed. This woman, who has so much to worthy of complaint, raised her hands and sang with us:
What a Friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and grief to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer
Pain is personal. Thankfully, so is our God.