Monday, May 12, 2014

Pain In the Card Aisles


 Hallmark. Just seeing or hearing the word gives you visions of sunshine, rainbows and "feel good fuzzies". Very few people can walk into a Hallmark store and not display at least a half-grin. For decades the Hallmark enterprise has connected loved ones to each other through cards and meaningful trinkets, placing as many gold seals on the memories of millions of individuals as on the envelopes of their cards.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have had an intense passion and love for greeting cards. I can distinctly remember a wire ring paper notebook that had birthday cards glued to the pages. Reading and re-reading those cards reminded me of the people who loved me, sharing words of affirmation that my little- yet -big heart needed in order to survive and make sense of the world.

About 1 year ago, the Lord brought me to a part time job at a Hallmark store. He literally led me to it, as I was approached by my now boss in the check out lane of another store that I was working for at that time. It has been a true blessing to work around all those beautiful cards, but it is an even greater blessing to be instrumental in helping people find the right card to express themselves to the loved ones in their lives. Finding the right words has always been an interest and skill of mine, but little did I know how God would use that interest and skill to open my eyes to something that I would never expect to see in a Hallmark store.

Pain.

Last week as I was combing the seasonal card aisle, I came across a visibly disgruntled woman. "Mam', are you finding everything okay?" I asked, hoping that I wouldn't receive the typical answer of "Oh, no thanks. I'm fine" when they clearly are not. "No...these cards. There are just too many "nice" things  to say. Mother's Day is hard." was her response. Her response reminded me of the guest that I assisted during the Christmas rush who's mother is an alcoholic. We looked through so many of those cards to find something that would express that she loved her mother, but something that wouldn't lie to her. It was that experience that opened my eyes to the people reading those cards.

"Thank you for everything you've done", "because of you I have been able to accomplish my goals", "In you I find beauty and strength" and "you deserve this day" were just a few of the phrases that I helped the woman navigate through as we went through mushy card after mushy card. Not a single one was "right" until she stumbled across one that would "do" for that person.

Friends, everywhere we look there is pain. We may not be able to see, hear or experience it, but there is pain. There is that classic quote "be kind, for everyone is fighting their own battle"; and though this quote couldn't be any more true, I want to point out how quickly we lose sight of our opportunities to shine Gods love into the lives of people in pain. Furthermore, how often we miss out on this opportunity because we are wallowing or working through our own pain and frustrations.

As Christians, we cannot afford to become immune to the pain of others. We must feel their pain to the best of our ability, offering compassion and encouragement in a world that is only willing to offer criticism and judgment. We must ask God to help us see through their pain and get a glimpse of their heart. Our world will do anything that it can to mask painful life symptoms with marketed holidays, food, and "togetherness" with people that actually hurt them.

We are taught that having a mask is essential to survival, but as Christians we are called to take off the mask and look to the revealed face of Jesus Christ. May God enable you to see past the mask of a person and into their hearts. Experience their pain so that they will realize that they do not need to experience it alone.