As I usually do on an average Friday in Suburban Chicago, I go book-shopping.
I find nothing more thrilling than pillaging through stack after stack of books looking for those hidden treasures that may lie within:
The first edition Gypsy Rose Lee memoir I've been searching for.
The signed Hedda Hopper autobiography I've thought night after night about.
The perfectly-bound first print of The Great Gatsby that I have spent many a night dreaming perfect dreams of.
But, for so many, the perfect things they have been searching for are just out of reach.
Which brings me to Cornerstone Used Books in Villa Park, Illinois. This is a quaint, intimate Mom-and-Pop bookstore that I simply love to frequent. I am always sure of a good find there, even if I don't know what in the heck I'm looking for!
I was wading through the proverbial thicket of books, the woman at the counter was talking. Being a normal human male with a penchant for gossip, I moved to a closer shelf to hear what she was saying.
In some ways, I wish I hadn't.
She was talking on the phone, I don't know to whom she was talking- a sister? A mother? A friend? I didn't hear much of the conversation. In fact, I heard only one line, that sent my mind to thinking and my heart to sinking.
"Oh, I'm Just Waiting...for the Email from my Son... saying he'll be home for Christmas..."
At first glance, the statement may seem innocent: her son may be a college student who likes to stay with his comrades at Christmas. Or, maybe he's on a Cruise and their arrival time is scheduled for after Christmas?
But it was her voice: a sad, slightly lethargic tone...a woman who has gone through several trials in the past few days...? Weeks...? Months...? Years...? A sigh accompanied the torn phrases.
Now, I think, the son may be fighting in Afghanistan for his country, and he won't be making it home for Christmas. Or, maybe he's having money troubles and lives in Maine, in some slum apartment, and can't scrounge up enough money for even lowly bus fare? Or maybe, just maybe, he hates his mother and makes it a point to never see her or talk to her. Yet, sadly, she keeps the hope that he may be back one day.
We all have a problem equitable, or not, to a child not coming home for Christmas.
We may have terrible jobs, that are one email away from ending.
We may have test grades, that are one email away from being entered.
We may have dying parents, who live far away from us and are not talking to us, and we are waiting for that sad email where an online obituary is going to be sent.
These problems plague us, like a ghostly phantasm massaging our shoulders and luring us into a solemn life of weeping ourselves to sleep and the ghosts of our problems haunt our very being.
It is up to us to face the problems we have in life.
We can't push these problems into the focus of our lives. When these problems become the spotlight on which our life's lens is focused, then we can't see all the good things in life.
Yet, at the same time, we can't ignore the problems. Every problem, no matter how difficult, has an answer. But, sadly, it just so happens that the bigger the problem, the solution will be equally as difficult. But, It is up to us and only us to find a solution, along with our friends, family and people in our lives who want nothing more than our happiness.
It's when we sit in bed all day, crying about our problems and not even thinking about the solutions, that we become unhealthy people and life becomes burdensome. We must never allow ourselves to become what I like to call Problem Invalids.
Problem Invalids are those people where, when any and every little thing goes wrong in their lives, they retire to the dark abyss of their rooms, and minds, and lurk all day angrily bemoaning their fate. They let the problems in their lives BECOME their lives. We all have bad days, but these people have bad YEARS. They can sometimes be toxic to be around, but many times these people can be good friends.
That's what is so scary. People around us could be going through any myriad of problems, yet they never tell us. That's something scarier than all the ghouls of Halloween put together!
My point for writing this blog is to put into your mind the idea that either you or someone else in your life can be going through tough times. Yet, it is up to us to either tell people what is hurting us or seek out the people who are hurting.
I ask you to look in your lives and help the people around you who are suffering.
If I had any backbone at all, I would have asked that woman what was wrong and why her son might not be home for Christmas...I really wish I had asked her.
I could have been the person, whom she had never met before, who had stepped into her life and helped her with her sadness.
So I ask you, if you see someone suffering, help them.
If you see someone drop their books in the hallway, help them pick them up.
If you see someone crying on the bus, ask them what's the matter?
If you see someone with knife cuts on their wrists, lend a helping hand.
You never know when a little gesture can save someone's life.
Filed under: Opinion/Memoir
Tags: chicago, chicago illinois, chicago suburbs, christmas, cornerstone used books, email, Friday, gypsy rose lee, hedda hopper, illinois, lend an ear, problem invalids, problems, save a life, saving someone's life, suburbs, the great gatsby, used bookstore, villa park, villa park illinois, wrist cuts