Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

December 17, 2006


‘Tis the season to be jolly – and kind

to people struggling with sadness


      Even though Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year,” many of us find it difficult to wear a “Joy to the world” face all the time. Sickness

and pain never take a holiday. They are always with us.

          This month I have already visited five people at home or in the hospital who are struggling to live. Cancer is the culprit in most cases. One dear woman is heavily sedated in a hospital bed only three feet from the Christmas tree she decorated two weeks ago. Joy can give way to sadness in the twinkling of an eye.

          One moment I am offering comfort to the family of a dying loved one. The next I am celebrating the birth of twin girls with young parents who are all smiles. Hours later I am consoling a man whose sister has just died after a long illness. That is life – a mixture of sadness and joy, good and evil, tough times and good times.

          Should those who are enjoying life stop celebrating because others are struggling with sorrow and sadness? By no means. To do so would be unthinkable.

          What makes sense is for the happy people to care about those who are hurting – and to offer a little tender, loving care. Caring may be demonstrated in a hundred different small ways. Each of us can find a way that feels comfortable to us.

          The gift of food is always appreciated. It does not need to be much. A homemade cake or a tray of cookies can brighten the day of someone who feels lonely, depressed, discouraged, or perhaps forgotten. A small bouquet of flowers will cheer up most anyone. Simply to show up and let a friend know you care can make a difference.

          Even a card or a telephone call can mean a lot. I kept thinking about a friend of mine in another state far away. His wife had died. I imagined he was lonely. So I called him.

          He seemed genuinely glad that I had called. Suddenly I realized how important my call may have been. Not only was my friend lonely, he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I fought back the tears as he said, “I’m going home soon and I am ready to go; I’ll get to be with my wife again and I am eager to see her.”

          For several seconds he heard nothing in reply from me. It was one of those rare moments when I was speechless. Finally I stammered and said, “My brother, I wish I could be with you one more time – just to let you know how much you have meant to me.”

          With a firm voice he replied, “I would love to see you too. But if we don’t see each other again down here, I’ll be waiting to see you up there, in the Father’s House.”

          After hanging up the telephone I sat quietly for a few minutes, asking God to bless my friend and thanking God that I had called. I remembered earlier days, almost 40 years ago, when our families had shared a vacation together. Our children think of it as the best vacation we ever had.

          We were young and vigorous then. We had life by the tail. Our days were filled with laughter and enthusiasm. We shared our stories of God’s undeserved grace and our dreams for ourselves and our children.

          Now we are old. His wife is gone and his health is failing. We talk more of heaven than our dreams. We are in a time of transition, more aware than ever before that our days are numbered.

          But despite all the problems we can still rejoice. We are not immersed in sadness.  We refuse to let sorrow rob us of our joy. We choose to rejoice in all that is good and to ask for grace to endure all that is bad.

          Hopefully the years have given us a more mature understanding of what it means to be joyful. Our outlook is seasoned by loss and pain to the point that we understand better than the young how to cope with sadness.

          We realize most of all that our joy is always increased whenever we take the time to care about those who are struggling with sadness. We no longer look for “a season to be jolly” but have accepted joy and sorrow as necessary ingredients of a life worth living. + + + +