Imagine being ill, or having a major accident that leaves you in a wheel chair for life. Some really caring physician, nurse, social worker, or pastor is able to connect such that you feel that your happiness and security mean a great deal to that person. This feeling is a bit like floating in a warm pool. You feel free for that short while from anxiety, rumination, fear, anger, bitterness, despair and all other negative emotions that come with the territory of illness and that perhaps just yesterday were fueled by a callous and demeaning statement. But now, you are grateful for being alive in this world, feel shielded and protected from stress, and are able to gather the strength to move ahead. You feel at rest and in fact may even be able to laugh, which is indeed a healthy thing. This is all part of the affirmation, tranquility and security of being loved. Someone set themselves aside and bestowed their full and attentive presence.

This person did not do anything "big" at all. They did not put themselves at any risk. They simply behaved with warmth, kindness, patience, and understanding. Perhaps they just asked you, in a caring tone of voice and with empathic expression, "Is there anything you might want to make your stay in this hospital a little more comfortable?" Small is beautiful. The quality of your experience as a patient is mostly the accumulation of such small interactions that leaves you feeling respected and cared about. We emphasize small acts done with care. These acts heal, and they are themselves a form of medical intervention and treatment.

In general, people who live loving lives find life gratifying, meaningful, joyful, and hopeful. While they love others for their own sake, as a by-product they come to realize that in the giving of self lies the discovery of a deeper and more flourishing self. They will often find renewal and resilience in this gift love when life gets challenging, as it can and does. Usually, they will find soul partners or deep friends who share their concerns and commitments as they journey in the path of love. Thus community forms around love. Love is not to be relegated to the arid, dry, lonely portrait of human suffering. There is buoyancy in love.

But sometimes love is utterly unappreciated, unacknowledged, and even mocked. People who love others and who have done no wrong may find themselves under attack, rejected, disrespected, and even hated. There is something about love that elicits fury, especially in those whose cynicism is threatened by love. The children of love do not seek their misery, nor should they ever. Such would be pathological. But sometimes suffering finds them, and they accept it. They wish it were not so, and yet they believe that if they continue to love to the very end, even unto death, there will be a mysterious new dawn that results, for their way of being in this world will leave its mark in ways great and small. Such unchanging love echoes in eternity.

Someone said that great visionary people have understood that doing the right thing will often cause some degree of misunderstanding and produce suffering. Other people expect goodness to be rewarded with trophies in one form or another. They sometimes lose faith and turn bitter when they encounter rejection and pain. But visionaries grow in faith during the desolate times. Other people perceive all pain as an evil waste. There is no greater visionary than the prophet who is responsible for the central chapters of Isaiah. This ancient seer saw that suffering could lead to healing and liberation.

We would prefer to think that loving servants of goodness would, after a long and successful life, die peacefully in their beds and all people speak well of them at their funerals. But this is too simplistic.

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