I know that I have written about gratitude this month already. And Ash Beckham did a powerful job of arguing the point that we can’t (and shouldn’t) compare one pain to another for the purpose of ranking. Oh, and I already had a post for today that was part of the series about trusting yourself. But I’m breaking up that series, and writing today on something that is like a few other posts, but different all the same. I’m changing the plan because something happened this morning that shook up my perspective.
I have written before about my own time in the dark, and I know that there are all too many stories of pain and tragedy. This morning though, as I was driving in, I was listening to a story about people in the Philippines attending church. As I’m sure you know, the Philippines were hit almost two weeks ago by what news reporters are calling a “super typhoon” that has killed thousands of people, and left hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of people without homes, food, or water. I’ve heard this story covered from many perspectives in the past two weeks, and I know that there are people here in Illinois who are facing a parallel loss after yesterday’s deadly storms. I’ve been aware of the stories, and involved in responding, but today’s report struck me differently.
What struck me as I listened to the story was one specific Filipino woman. She was being interviewed after attending church, in her church that had suffered serious storm damage, after the loss of her home and everything she owned in the world. She was interviewed after knowing people who had died, after spending close to two weeks desperately trying to access food and water.
And she said that she had spent her time in church “praying in thanksgiving.” Praying in thanksgiving because she and her family were alive, “and nothing is as important as that.”
It’s an easy thing for us to lose when we are in pain.
I was humbled by this story. I know that, while I eventually found my perspective as part of my journey out of the dark, I sure didn’t have it two weeks after my loss.
I also know that perspective isn’t something that anyone can give us. We have to find it for ourselves. I don’t see perspective as a way of comparing or ranking pain. Instead, I see it as a gift that allows us to penetrate the illusion that we are alone in our pain. Perspective reminds us that suffering is a human experience, that everyone has pain, that we can choose to let our pain draw us closer together or to wall us off from others.
I got my perspective check this morning (I actually get lots of them–one benefit of being a psychologist is lots of chances to check my perspective). When have you had a perspective check?