A few times a year my church has what we call Serving Saturdays where we go and volunteer in mass amounts to help local ministries/nonprofits in our area. This morning my sister and I spent our Serving Saturday painting apartments for some women at Mending Hearts which is a ministry for women who are facing homelessness due to addiction, mental illness or other emotional issues.
As always, my favorite part was talking to the women living there, but I was struck by something today. It was so interesting to me that ALL of the women there were very eager to tell us their stories. Within in minutes of meeting a woman named Natalie, she told me that February was a really bad month for her. Her brother died, it was the anniversary of her grandmother's death, she missed her baby girl and she was having a difficult time with other family members. "It's not an excuse," she said, "but I relapsed after two years of being sober and clean."
After I left, I realized that I've had a similar experience with ex-prostitutes and men in prison: they always want you to know what they're struggling with and how they got there.
I spent some time thinking today about why that is and I really think that it stems from our God-given desire to be known. Whether we know it or not, we long for community and understanding and, in my experience, those among us with the more obvious problems (meaning those who admit them) are always the first to reach out. I love being around people who are willing to be real and admit their faults because instead of fear and judgment that leads to fake, guarded conversations, we finally experience genuine connection. Even though there are those among us who are not so eager to be transparent and honest about our stories, or who are even simply just afraid to share them, we all have the same desires, deep down, to be known and loved for who we are, flaws and all.
Maybe that's why I'm so into people's stories. I really believe that our stories make up who we are and when we share our stories we begin to create a deeper sense of understanding of spirit we're encountering. Stories tell us who we are, who we were and where we want to go.
After that revelation, however, it occurred to me the sheer volume of people who are trapped inside their homes, or out on the streets, who are feeling unknown and unloved. Today I want to encourage you, as well as myself, to push deeper and really get to know those around you. Reach out! We've all got stories to tell and I bet when you hear someone's story that somehow they'll become a part of your own.What's more, I bet you won't regret it!
Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat. -Mother Teresa