People say you can’t tell when someone is going through hell. I say that those people aren’t really looking. The signs are perfectly obvious.
Someone who has been beaten down by life is often the person who greets you with the warmest smile. Someone who has been broken into pieces by circumstance asks how you are doing and then truly pays attention to your answer. It is the person who always offers a word of encouragement at just the right moment when your confidence is failing. It is the person who steps forward to offer the most heartfelt congratulations in your time of accomplishment even when their world is falling apart. It is the person who appears to be the calm port in every vicious storm. That person will do their absolute best to support you in your time of need because they know exactly how it feels to be without a bolster of their own to lean on. That person cannot stand the thought of anyone else experiencing the mental, emotional, or physical suffering they experience every day of their lives.
When you see this person, look at them. Not just a casual glance, not just for a second. But, take the time to look at them. Their pain, though carefully concealed under the cosmetic veneer of a smile, is there. The look of anguish haunts their eyes. They will probably never tell you about their troubles, of course. You may never find out exactly what they are going through. That is, until the weight becomes far too much for one human spirit to bear and that spirit breaks like glass against concrete. They shatter into a million fragments, spilling their pent-up sadness for all to see. And it can happen to even the strongest.
When you recognize this person, remember to offer them a smile or a kind word. No grand gestures or lavish displays are needed for those things often make this type of person uncomfortable. It is the little things that give them the strength to continue. It is the little things they treasure so much. And you never know, you might just be the only bright spot of their day.
Note: This post is dedicated to a friend of mine who has both faced a great deal of hardship in her own life and has offered me kindness during my own difficult times. I thank you many times over.