Freedom to Grieve

Protecting grief from "closure," consumerism, politics, and other cultural distortions

Be the Beauty in Our Broken World

You may be a surprised how simple acts can change people's lives.

In an earlier post, I wrote about how we have to rethink the definition of beauty in order to find it in brokenness. In addition to broadening our imagination of what beauty means, we need to expand our awareness of how small acts of kindness can give others great beauty.

We live in a broken world—poverty, discrimination, crime, death, and war. We also continually face natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes. We need to stay encouraged in knowing there is beauty and hope in this brokenness—otherwise it gets too depressing and overwhelming to reach out a helping hand.

Anyone can offer moments of encouragement, hope, and beauty to others. And perhaps it is just as important to tell you that anyone around you might become a source of beauty.

Amazing advances in technology and innovation in this digital world have changed the way we live. However, you will still find more beauty in simple acts of humanity.

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In one of my classes, I have crime victims talk to my students about their experiences with crime and the complications that follow. One year, Samuel, a man in his 70s, shared with my students about abuse he endured as a child at the hands of his parents. As he grew up, he became angry, bitter, and started to hurt others. In high school, a teacher changed his life. The first day of class, she waited at the door when students were leaving in order to shake their hands. He tenderly recalled how she took his hand in both of hers and said “Samuel, I’m looking forward to getting to know you.” He was shocked, and touched, that anyone would want to get to know him. Over 60 years later, that simple act of a teacher shaking his hand and warmly greeting him still brought tears to his eyes.

In that same class, Fred told my students about the pain of losing his son because of a drunk driver. As part of his work doing victim impact panels in prisons, he met another inmate who had nothing to do with his son’s death. Nonetheless, the inmate, who is an artist, drew a portrait of Fred’s son at no cost. The grieving father said: “Words cannot describe the healing that artwork has provided.”

Acts of kindness can change people’s lives even if you do not see the results. Anyone can give beauty to others in our broken world. But you need to be ready. Look up from your phones. Disconnect from technology more so you can connect with those around you. Look people in the eyes and listen to their stories.

Sometimes you cannot know the misery in one’s life, but you should always work to treat others with compassion and patience. You will add beauty to people’s lives in ways that you’ll never hear about or see.

 

 

Nancy Berns, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Drake University and the author of Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What It Costs Us.

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