Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sympathy for Pain

While I was shopping at a large grocery store yesterday, a small child screamed at the top of his little lungs. He would have put many an opera singer to shame with his lung capacity. We could hear him throughout the store. The sound literally hurt our ears. I had to move a few aisles down just to get away from him, and he was already several aisles away from me. A woman near me said that she was getting a head ache.

The mother stayed calm. She didn’t yell, slap or threaten him. She didn’t take him out of the store. At one point she did apologize that he was a bit cranky because he hadn’t had his nap. In retrospect I wonder whether he had mild autism or a physical problem that was fueling this huge surge of sheer emotional expression: “I am in pain, and you will all know it!!!”

Yet many of us have known the pain that the child expressed. My childhood classmate Susan expresses the pain of losing her husband so well in the blog that she has been keeping for over a year. My friend Lyn just keeps on getting sick, her only way of expressing the pain of seeing our friend John deteriorate from dementia. I know the night terrors of waking up at 2:00 in the morning and thinking life cannot possibly worth all the hassle. I can add to that all the people I know who have chronic health conditions that leave them in considerable pain.

I wish I could have been the white knight on the horse and rescued the mother. I know a tiny bit about some acupressure techniques that could have calmed him down for a bit, but I am just learning how to do them on myself. I wouldn’t have known where to start on someone else. I sent up a little prayer instead. At the same time I felt the little boy was screaming for all of us in the store, expressing the pain that we so seldom can.

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