I was recently blindsided by an e-mail from a friend. This friend had misinterpreted something I had done and then made some further assumptions that cut me to the quick. I had no idea how to respond. Part of me was angry that she believed things about me that were not true. Part of me was wounded by her words. I was just flummoxed by the whole scenario.
As I was trying to reason out the best way to respond, my brother (and Pastor) wisely reminded me of a story I had told him many years ago.
While in high school I volunteered a number of times for Special Olympics. I absolutely loved being a "hugger"--one who stood at the end of the "race" or "jump" or event and hugged the participants as they finished. But on one particular occasion, instead of being asked to be a "hugger" the person in charge of volunteers paired me with a mentally challenged girl with Down's Syndrome. She had no family or friends at the event to watch or encourage her so I was assigned to walk her from event to event and support her as she participated in each activity.
It was going fairly well until it came time for the long jump. She completed a jump of about a foot and 1/2 and a look of utter disappointment and horror crossed her face. She had thought she would do so much better. I walked toward her to hug her and congratulate her for completing the event and she lashed out, angry at herself for her perceived failure. She began to cry and wail and then to start hitting herself in the face with her fists. I threw my arms around her trying to pin her arms down so she wouldn't injure herself and her fist collided with my right cheek just under my eye. I just kept holding her, whispering in her ear, until she calmed down.
The point my brother was making was this...in her anger, in her pain, she ended up hurting me... the one who was trying to help. But she didn't mean to... it was a by product of her disability.
We are all disabled in one way or another. Some emotionally, some physically, some spiritually...this affects how we act, how we respond, and sometimes it unintentionally hurts those around us. Hurt people hurt people.
This reminder, this nugget of truth was enough to take the edge off my own pain and glimpse the bigger picture. It was enough to soften my heart again toward this friend who I love and compose a response that was honest AND loving. It was enough to remind me of grace.
Thank you, Matt, for the reminder.