As I reflect upon my recent travels, what immediately comes to mind is a picture I cannot shake off! It was our last day in Kurdistan. We were on our way for our last meeting in Erbil. The traffic was heavy. All of a sudden a car pulled up beside us at the traffic light and we heard screaming from that vehicle. It was a small pickup and everyone inside was weeping or sobbing, especially a woman who was clearly hysterical, smiting her forehead and her chest screaming in despair. Her husband (we presume) was trying his best to contain her. We didn’t know what to do until someone in our car said she must have just received news of someone’s death in her family. We reached out to them with a bottle of water, and somebody from their car took it and started to splash some of the water on the distraught woman.
As the light turned green, the car pulled away and we saw in the back of the pickup a small girl, about six years old, sitting there looking totally forlorn and helpless. She must have been the daughter of the couple bearing the brunt of whatever news they had just received. My heart breaks thinking about them, a shattered family. We had no idea what the tragic news was. We were strangers in the land. They accepted a bottle of water from us and that’s all we could do.
Life has its huge twists and turns; grief and heartache are in large supply. A bottle of water wouldn’t do much, but it helped us reach out to say, “We’re sorry you’re hurting.” As I travel, I see so much pain that I’m not sure anymore what one can do meaningfully to help. All I can say is that we respond with what Moses did when God asked him, “What is in your hand?” That’s all we can give, and sometimes it can calm a troubled soul or say just that we care.
There is enough pain to go around. May we spread comfort and healing to a broken world—whether in the Middle East or North America. It’s amazing with all that we saw in Iraq, that picture of a screaming woman, a consoling husband, and a heartbroken little girl is the picture I cannot forget.
Some parts of the world are tired of pain. William Butler Yeats wrote, “Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart.” They have borne so much that the heart gets stepped on repeatedly and the scream is one of utter despair. I remember the words of the Iraqi woman who said to us: “Thank you for caring enough to come here.” That said volumes to us and that is why I go to the hurting parts of the world. A touch of affection and getting close can keep the heart from being hardened.