As I look into the faces of my fellow residents here at the Retirement Community, I think of the lives that have been lived. Lives of purpose. Lives with meaning. Lives filled with love. Of loves won and loves lost. The warmth of joy. The bitter cold of sadness. Memories galore or none at all. Red letter days of magnificence. Days of gigantic failure. Untold secrets of abuse. The joys of weddings. The sadness of grief. The times of hardship and the times of plenty. The times of laughter and the times of crying. Behind everyone is a story, often untold.

Look around you because these sentiments could apply to any group of people. Groups of people you know. Others around you whom you don’t know. The experience of life has created indelible grooves in their lives, some for good, some not so good and some decidedly detrimental. But how little we know of the hidden struggles and internal conflicts that fill the minds of those around. Looking at the faces of those we meet on the street how can we ever know what is hurting in their lives?  Faces often belie the truth. Wearing a mask is common place. For various reasons some would never share their problems anyway. Maybe it is hard for them to think that others care.

We cannot resolve the heartaches and problems of everyone we encounter but I believe we should be reaching out to those who are within our circle. We need to take steps to deliberately grow closer to personal friends. Absolute trust results from the investment of time, energy and effort into any relationship. Trust precedes sharing and sharing can lead to healing. We cannot provide support until we know what support is needed. We cannot provide suggestions or solutions until we know the problem. Confidential trust is critically important in the offering of such help.

I get the sense that many people today are dealing with untold struggles, concerns, conflicts and other obstacles life is throwing at them. We may not provide the total answer but we may help to alleviate some aspects of pain and concern. Show genuine interest in others.  Be available. Try to see through the false smile and be aware of what is going on underneath. Try to be sensitive, both to situations and their feelings. Get your “How are you?” question answered honestly.  This is the special domain of real friends and that is what they are for. What a privileged position to be considered a real friend!