A few weeks ago, a friend of mine was attacked when a burglary was botched and the bugler panicked. She sustained severe injuries and was hospitalized. Her husband recently sent out an amazing email about how they are dealing with the emotions that arise from an experience like this.
I asked him if it was okay for me to publish it here on Intrepid Flame, as I feel the message is an important one, and he said okay. Here it is in its entirety- names and places edited to protect privacy:
By now many of you know that a little over 2-weeks ago someone broke into my house and severely beat my wife. It was horrible, unimaginable and a shock to us all in the community, friends and family all over the world.
It left many of us asking why? and why did this happen to her? I am not sure we’ll ever know the answer to that.
It happened mid-day and she was locked presumably safely in our hose.
If you have ever been a victim of a crime then you know that you feel violated, angry, and vulnerable when someone invades your private ‘space’ like that.
Compound that with the brutal beating of someone you love and you also feel rage, guilt, sadness and finally relief when you know that everything will be OK in the long run. Trust me, you feel almost every imaginable human emotion.
Yes, you feel guilty for not being there to help. You feel rage and want to find the guy and make him pay for his actions. You feel grief and sadness when you see someone you care so much for in that physical and emotional state.
All of those are viable emotions and from my perspective quite natural and healthy to feel. But you can’t dwell on them, focus on them or let them consume you.
I can tell you why.
Those negative emotions and feelings aren’t constructive. They don’t build anything new. They don’t replace the loss. They don’t help the healing process that must take place. And ultimately those negative emotions are counterproductive and destructive.
The only truly worthwhile emotion is love. It is the only way to rebuild what was destroyed or lost. Love is constructive. It helps everything heal.
Of course, you already know that. This is just a reminder.
Whether you know it or not you are part of an incredible community that extends from the ____ community outward and encompasses all of humanity. Everyone from the students, parents, maintenance staff, colleagues, and administrators at ____ to friends and family around the entire world reached out to us quickly and lovingly. Total strangers offered their sympathies and help.
People around the world cried for us. People all over the planet have been praying for us and sending positive energy and thoughts. Everyone gave us the best thing they could…. their love, positive thoughts and support.
And here’s the catch. Some of those people aren’t necessarily our best friends. Some are strangers. And… how to say this… some are the very ones that get on our nerves at times or annoy us the most. Some of the people that responded with the most love are the very same ones that give us the most trouble.
That is astounding.
You know these people. We all have them in our life. Perhaps they are the student that is naughty or misbehaving in class. Or the colleague or parent that doesn’t necessarily get along with you very well. Or the acquaintance in the community that you never really had time to get to know. Or someone that just puts you off for some reason or another.
And countless well wishes and prayers from so many different types of people: Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Jews, Atheists, Indians, Indonesians, Malays, Americans, Australians, Africans, Brits, Thai, Canadians, Filipinos… and the list goes on and on.
Not to mention from every layer of society: students, maids, maintenance guys, parents, police, managers, workers, rich people, poor people… their station in life didn’t matter. They all rushed to our side.
You name it… we got it and accepted their love and caring with open arms. Love doesn’t discriminate or know those boundaries and definitions.
I hope you know what I mean. I find it truly amazing. I can’t stop thinking about it.
So what does that teach us and help us remember?
What it reminds me to remember is that all those differences are superficial. They really don’t matter. The minor differences. The annoying quirks and idiosyncrasies. They aren’t what we should focus on. They don’t define the essence of the person.
Race, religion, socio-economic status and beliefs don’t erase or mask what we truly are or can be at the core of it all: loving, caring human beings who struggle through this existence with one another, side by side, trying to make sense of it all.
As I’ve journeyed through this life I’ve learned, forgotten and relearned many times over this simple fact: as we swim through this ocean of experience we try not to drown. We teach each other to stay afloat. We support each other and we build life rafts out of community, friendship and love because we know deep down inside that we are all stronger when we work together. We are not alone in our confusion and struggle.
It is indeed our greatest commonality and asset. This life. This collective struggle. This shared existence.
In our time of need all of those superficial things dropped away like the petals of dried flowers and exposed this fact. Everyone that responded did so in the same exact way. With kindness, love, respect and gave what they could. Because in our hearts we all know we are in this together. Although sometimes we tend to forget that basic tenet.
Of course, you already know that. This is just a reminder.
So here is my challenge to you and what I have learned, forgotten and relearned through this experience:
Cherish these moments you have on this Earth, especially with loved ones. Don’t dwell on the emotions that aren’t worthwhile. And next time someone is getting on your nerves or causing you problems, look beyond the thin veneer of their quirks and idiosyncrasies and gaze deeply into the core of their humanity.
Look at them through the lens of our common human experience and you’ll see yourself reflected there. And if you do this, I promise you will recognize that they are indeed just like you in their essence. You will recognize yourself in them.
Because one of the most profound things I have heard lately came from my wife when she said ‘I stopped being a victim the moment he stopped hitting and kicking me. Now I am a survivor.’
This makes sense to me because I truly believe and feel in my heart we are all surviving together in this existence and experience day-by-day in our own way, collectively.