The Pain Behind The Smile
I wrote this article in 2013, and I feel it is time I reshared it. It is about these two patients who were sharing a hospital ward. One was sleeping on a bed next to the only window to the room. The other was sleeping on a bed farther from the window and therefore could not see anything outside of the window. His condition was such that he could not even turn.
Each day, the patient by the window told the other patient farther from it some exciting things he could see through the window. He told him of beautiful flowers, trees and buildings. He told him of a park by a river and how lovers sitting on benches gave beauty to the whole scene. He told him of the beauty beyond the confining walls of the hospital room. Each morning, and as often as he could, the one on the window bed tried his best to paint a beautiful picture of the outside world to his ward mate.
Then one day, the window patient suffered a seizure and started struggling for help. He could not press the button that was to alert the nurses. As he struggled, the other Patient kept quiet and did nothing till the suffering patient succumbed to the icy fingers of death.
Immediately the authorities came for the body of the dead mate, the other patient requested to be moved to the window bed, which they obliged. To his shock and dismay, he realized there was no view beyond the window except a grey blinding wall of another building. There was no park, no river, no flowers or trees nor anything beautiful. It was a blank grey wall.
All he wanted to do was to experience with his own eyes the beauty which was daily described to him, and for that he did not mind sacrificing the life of the one enjoying it to gain an advantage.
This story opened my eyes to a poignant lesson: even through pain and suffering, people are able to paint a brighter picture of life to others just to alleviate their [the other person’s] pains and give them hope and confidence of a brighter future. Through their own heartaches, they manage to put smiles on the faces of others just so they can console them, not giving a thought about what they are going through themselves. Remember they were both patients, meaning they were both in a state of dis-ease.
It was easy for the other patient to think the other one was having the best of the situation, that he was even probably not that sick. I am sure he was even praying he was discharged soon so he would have that bed. You see, even through his pain he still had a place in his heart for envy, jealousy and greed. He did not see the effort his friend was putting in to make his condition containable. All he saw was why not him? Why was he not the one enjoying it? And I can only imagine the extent he was willing to go to get that bed, and the end of his friend gives us an insight into what he was willing to do [or not to do] just to get that bed. For him, it was nothing personal; it was not about the life in question, it was about the bed and by extension the location.
Is It Really That Blissful?
Sometimes all we see is the laughter on people’s faces, the words of encouragement, a word of advice, a word of caution… Sometimes, people stop all they are doing to offer that help. They cancel their schedules just to make that time; give their little bit just so you can have and be ok. Parents sacrifice so much so their kids may be in school; have a mussel of meal.
That pastor who is fasting and praying for you has a million unanswered prayers, yet he keeps a bright face, and his words positive, and paint a brighter picture of God’s unfailing love just so you will be encouraged and keep faith; just so he can encourage himself with his own words to you. That counselor is fighting a running battle with children who are bent on dragging his name in the mud, a partner who has silently sworn to do exactly the opposite of what is being counseled others. Yet, when you visit, they speak with confidence, believing in the very words that seem not to be working in their own life, hoping and knowing it will work for you.
You envy your friend’s marriage; and clearly it is understandable. Her husband is an epitome of a perfect husband; her children are the ideal children we all crave for. But you have no clue about the sleepless nights she has had to endure, the pain of being married to him, the difficulty in keeping those children. Yet her gentle spirit prevents her from spilling it into the public as social media drama. She would rather keep her husband’s reputation intact, sealing it with a smile and made up stories of how beautiful marriage could be, and how sweet having children and watching them grow could be.
The two of you could be in the same room, with the same ailment, but she is able to rise above her pain to give comfort to you. Do not think you have the complete story and therefore act cruelly towards her because of that.
We see people looking nice and living well and that is enough to think they have it all and therefore they should give ‘some’ to us when we ask for it. Oh that your Auntie or Uncle in the US or UK is so cruel. How much will it cost for them to fly you to the US or UK for holidays. Clearly you have no idea about the bills, you do not know of the mortgage and the bank loans. You have no idea of the various lenders who are chasing them, the pressure on the perceived ‘big moneys’ they get and how they are collecting from one place to pay them at another place.
You see their pictures and how they dress when they are in town and that is enough for you to hate them. When you find yourself in their shoes, you may not survive the gloom of their existence. But they have tried to keep up the smile, and with their occasional handouts, managed to put some on your face.
We all have our problems, pains and hurts; we have our unanswered prayers and our pains that keep us awake at night. We all have our gloom, yet we look at that blank wall and tell nice stories to others as if the world around us is all that blissful.
I have heard people refusing to offer help to people who needed it because the people did not look needy enough or because they did not look like the kind of people who will need that kind of help. I have seen people refuse to help others because helping them means those people get to stay where they are; a place of advantage while by their help the helper stay at the disadvantaged part of the story.
But you see, People simply learn to dance in the rain and paint in the night,
and in both cases make the outcome beautiful. Be happy for people, you have no clue what they are going through; most importantly you have no idea the cost they are bearing trying to put a smile on your face and joy in your heart.