By Tracy Springberry
I wrote this from my office in Fairbanks, Alaska during the last days of September. The church is tucked into a bit of forestland just outside of town. I looked out at the spruce and the white barked birch, who were bare except for a few tattered, bronze leaves. It was early winter there. The air had been crisp and stinging the last few days, and now it was snowing, a wet heavy snow. In every way it was like a late November day in the Inland Northwest.
At home, they told me, it was still in the 70s during the day. Someone had the audacity to suggest they were feeling a bit chilly now that the afternoon temperatures were in the low 70s instead of the low 80s.
I was reminded that all of life is relative. Two days before hearing that, I bundled in my coat for a walk, I met a woman sitting outside in a patch of sun with her lunch. “I’m just not very cold yet,” she said.
In Alaska, in mid-winter they consider zero degrees warm. Mostly winter temperatures are well below zero. In the Midwest last winter, they closed schools when it hit zero degrees. In Fairbanks, kids go to recess until 20 below. I discovered it’s true though, zero degrees is warm. One week when I was here the temperature spiked from 25 below to zero. I went happily from car to building with my coat unzipped and hat off. It was balmy!
Our experience of cold is relative, as is our experience of the rest of our lives. What can feel like real hardship and pain to one person can feel like a light blow to another. A flooded basement can be a blip in the week to a person who had a house leveled by a tornado. A burnt dinner would seem hardly worth commenting on to a person who struggles day to day to feed their family. I thought the arguments my ex-husband and I had about the kids meant we were terrible co-parents, until I listened to stories about divorced fathers who never showed up to see their kids. Suddenly I was so happy that my children had a father who was willing to argue with me to see his kids more.
Other people’s pain does not make our pain less. When bad things happen, it hurts. Other people’s hurting more just doesn’t provide relief. If our back has been aching for months, the pain someone else feels after surgery, just doesn’t make our back hurt less. Emotional and spiritual pain are no different. Our lives are our own. Our pain is in the context of our own situation, not someone else’s.
All we can do is be kind to ourselves, let others be kind to us, and do the work we need to heal. Winter comes to all our lives, for some it is harsher than others, but for most of us, spring comes too.
- Mary, Joseph and Jesus were refugees - November 28, 2015
- Raising kids to be kind - October 21, 2015
- The holiday seasons’ Land of Expectations - December 1, 2014
- Experience is relative - November 5, 2014
- In memory of Lorissa Green: Seeking meaning in the flux - June 11, 2014
- Generosity as a spiritual practice - May 2, 2014