Five Cents, Please.

Most mornings it is just moments before opening time when I turn the key in the back door of the music store.  The black monsters that have followed me down the sidewalk are jumping in the air or pushing their noses against my leg in a vain attempt to convince me to play with them for awhile.  I close the door on them and go up front to hang up my shingle.

What’s that?  My shingle?  Sure.  You know.  Just like Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip, it seems that when the open sign is on, there is also a sign that says “Psychiatric Help 5¢”, and below that “The doctor is in.”  Some days, there is more traffic than others.

I’m not sure my advice is actually worth the nickel.  Most of the time, I just nod my head and ask a question or two.  I wonder if Lucy did it better.

I’m trying to be very careful about how I say this.  I don’t intend to be insensitive, but people tell me things that I really don’t want to know.  

I don’t really want to be involved in their personal lives.  I don’t really want to invest emotionally in their situations.  The cost to me is well more than I have to spend.  The pain, the sadness, the horror at what people are going through is often more than I can stand.

Are you hearing them too?

Do you know that widowed mom down the street who is embarrassed to admit that she lives on government assistance and food stamps?  She needs still more help and doesn’t know who to talk to.  What about the dad who is devastated that his son is in trouble with the law–so devastated that he won’t even talk with the boy’s mother about it?  Maybe you too have talked to the young teenager who doesn’t understand why her mom blames her for the break-up of her parent’s twenty-year marriage.

The list goes on and on, the situations as diverse as the people themselves.  They are folks that you know–or at least they’re just like the ones you know.  I just happened to be in the wrong place at the right time.  Or, is it the other way around?  Regardless, they talk to me because I am here and they don’t think I will attack them.

I won’t.

Now Lucy–she wasn’t so backwards about it, was she?  Charlie Brown comes to her wondering why he doesn’t fit in and she shows him the wide world and asks him if this is the world he must live in.  When he answers in the affirmative, she screams,  “Well, live in it, then!”

To add insult to the injury of her blunt honesty, she then walks over to where he is lying on the ground and, holding out her hand, demands, “Five cents, please.”

Her logic is impenetrable; her empathy, a bit less so.

Want to know why I won’t attack them?  I’ve finally figured out that they are me.  Oh, my problems may not be as overwhelming, but to me it seems that they are.  I struggle with issues which I will not divulge to anyone, except perhaps to someone I think I can trust not to kick me while I am on the ground.  I understand what it is to carry around secrets that threaten to poison my soul.

I know what it is to be wounded.

We don’t kick a wounded soldier.  We offer them comfort.  We give them aid.  We tend to their wounds.  The day may come when correction will be appropriate, but in the agony of loss and torment, it would only add to their pain.

I wonder if my posts for the last weeks have been too dark, too introspective.  I will admit that the world seems a somewhat more dangerous place to me than it once was.  That said, I write these words to encourage, to edify, and certainly not to darken the reader’s mind or to discourage a joyous and happy outlook on life in the Creator’s world.  But, I am almost convinced that we are better served  by living informed and sober lives, rather than going through our days in gleeful oblivion to the hidden suffering around us.  That’s something like fiddling while Rome burns, isn’t it?

Fiddling or not, I do like a phrase I hear tossed about a good bit.  Joy in the journey.

I think the joy comes from sharing the load with others who won’t condemn.  It comes as we teach each other and learn from each other.  And, if the joy is offset a bit by the pain, as least we have traveling companions who we can trust to carry the load with us.  And if they’re the right kind of companions, they direct us to the Physician who really can help when we need it.

You know, come to think of it–The Doctor is always IN.

And you get to keep your nickel.

“Good counsel failing men can give, for why?
He that’s aground knows where the shoal doth lie.”
(Benjamin Franklin ~ American founding father/author ~ 1706-1790)

“In the multitude of counselors there is safety.”
(Proverbs 24: 6b ~ ASV)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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