Several months ago a thought began to take hold in my mind. It weighed heavily on me. While I understood the general context of what God was asking me to do, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how He wanted me to implement the plan. However, as I took part in our local Stand for Life with fellow pro-life advocates, holding a sign proclaiming the sanctity of life, a plan came into place and I knew what I wanted, no needed, to do.
You see, I have always believed that the most important lesson I can ever teach my children is that we must love and respect all people. It is only by doing so that we can love God completely as well. For us it naturally means that, from the womb all the way to the grave, life is sacred. But while many people simply focus on the beginning or end of life issues, I know that I want them to remember all the people in between as well. While it’s important for us to Stand for Life of the unborn, it is also important for us to advocate for the lives of those who have already been born. I had decided that in the upcoming year I wanted to make this a mission for our family.
The question was how to do this. We are active in our community in many ways- we try to volunteer at our homeless shelter, we help where we can for the pregnancy resource center, we collect clothing for the poor, we reach out to those we see are needy (those we know and those we don’t), we regularly visit with the sick and the elderly, we stand for life and advocate the end of abortion, and we travel with our youth group to participate in mission trips to help the impoverished and disadvantaged. We try our hardest to touch the lives of all people, especially those who are suffering.
It’s important to realize that there is so much more suffering in the world than what we can see. People are often masters at hiding their troubles and their pain. They do this so well that we might be surprised to find out just how much a person is hurting- physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. They smile and put on a face of bravery so that others won’t see what is truly happening in their hearts, minds, and in their lives. Suffering comes in many forms.
It was these people, those who are silently suffering, that I had hoped to reach out to. I wanted them to know that they are not alone. I wanted them to know that we see them even though they are trying so hard to hide their pain. I wanted them to know that there is hope.
And so we put into action the plan that took hold of my heart after that tiny nudge from God. We gathered supplies and began making signs. They were simple but powerful. “You are beautiful.” “You are NOT alone.” “Don’t give up!” “It’s going to be ok.” “You are loved.” “Trust in God’s plan.” “Do not be afraid.” “Believe in yourself!” “You can change your life.” “You are worthy of love and happiness.”
When the weather cooperated we took to the streets of Carrollton, the biggest town in our county. I picked a busy intersection that had stop lights and sidewalks so that we could safely stand and so that those who would pass us would have time to read our signs while stopped. I lined up my children and with smiles on our faces we silently stood holding our signs of hope. We waved occasionally but mostly we just stood and smiled at people.
The response we received was so overwhelming. People smiled as they read our signs. We saw them nod their heads in agreement. They honked in appreciation. They waved as they passed us. I was moved to tears as I saw one woman cast her head downward wiping tears from her eyes. Later we would hear from a few others that when they saw us or someone they knew saw us they had been moved and uplifted by our signs. Some would share their stories with us and why it meant so much to see our signs of hope; others simply said that it was just what they needed at that moment.
As our nation experiences a mental health crisis and more and more people feel despair as they face trials and hardships, it is part of our duty to help bring relief to those who suffer. We may feel unqualified to do so but even the smallest act of kindness can go towards alleviating the difficulties that others may be facing- opening a door for someone, acknowledging someone with a simple “hello”, smiling at others, offering a hand when you see someone struggling, asking how a person’s day is going, listening to a friend without judgment or interjecting advice when they simply need someone to listen, taking someone to lunch, introducing yourself to someone who always seems to be alone, or making a phone call or text when you feel the nudge to check up on someone you love.
We can’t possibly know how our tiny acts of love and hope will affect those who are at their lowest and we many never see the fruits resulting from the gifts of love we shower upon others, but if we profess to hold that all life is sacred, then we must work to uplift those who have fallen and who have lost hope.
In a world where we are told that we should simply focus on what makes us happy, it is counter-cultural to put others first. But God calls us to do just that. When we work to uplift others and to bring hope and happiness to those who need it most, we find that our own happiness will come naturally. Not only will we find happiness, but we will find true joy when we serve others with a heart filled with love.
After we left that day and headed home, two of my older girls asked if they could borrow the car so that they could continue to spread hope and happiness to others. They decorated a couple of our stores that day with post it notes of encouragement. One friend said he found one of the notes and was inspired to do the same in his own town. It was exactly what we had hoped would happen. We lit a small fire of hope and others were beginning to fan the flames. Maybe, just maybe, it will spread like wildfire, engulfing the hearts of all those who witness these small gestures of love.
When I shared our day with my Facebook friends I wrote that we had prayed that what we did would not only bring hope to those in need of encouragement but would also inspire others to do something to help make life a little better for those around them. We all can do something to make our world a little friendlier, a little happier, and a little better. None of us here can heal the world of the hate and discord all by ourselves, but if we each do a little bit we can work together to flood the world with love and peace.
Our family plans to continue our Mission to Inspire. We will be standing in hope at various places throughout our county in the coming weeks and months. Our next stop will be in our own town and we pray that our efforts will bring comfort to those who need it the most. I ask you, what will you do to bring hope and inspiration to a hurting world?
My friends, if you are lost, confused, alone, or suffering, I am praying for you. I pray you know that you are not alone. God is with you and He will bring the right people into your life to help you through. Your life matters. You are wanted and needed. Today, if you are looking for a sign, God has used us to bring it to you…