A friend said to me the other day, “You know, Maria, some people are deeply committed to their unhappiness. They don’t want to change, and there is nothing you can do about it. It is what it is.”
Wow, I thought to myself. Is that really true? Are there people out there who choose to be unhappy? People who have resigned themselves to believing that joy and happiness are out of reach for them?
Over the next few days, I kept coming back to my friend’s words. I guess there could be some truth to what he said, I thought, but deep down I believe that everyone would choose joy, optimism, and peace for their lives if they actually knew how.
Later that week I went to a dinner in support of Homeboy Industries, an extraordinary Los Angeles nonprofit started by the amazing Father Gregory Boyle. Homeboy Industries works with young men and women whose lives have been taken over by gangs or prison and helps them heal by offering them empathy, kindness, and a shot at redemption.
One person after another took the stage that night to talk about the harrowing lives they had led in the projects and on the streets. They spoke about what it meant to them to be offered a job at Homeboy Industries after leaving prison. Some spoke about not being “ready” for that job when it was offered to them. They chose instead to turn back to a life of crime and unhappiness. But then, for one reason or another, they found their way back to Homeboy when they were ready to heal. Ready to try to understand themselves. Ready to choose happiness over heartache, and peace over rage.
I was struck by the notion that for many people, timing is everything. I was struck by each person saying what it meant to them to have Homeboy Industries accept them again when they were finally ready. Then my friend Jane Fonda, who was honored by Homeboy Industries that night, took the stage. She spoke about how all of us, regardless of where we live or how we grew up, need to heal. Each and every one of us has trauma, pain, and heartbreak, she said, and each of us has work to do to heal from them. She also pointed out that healing is always hard for everyone, and it never happens on a straight path.
That brings me back to my friend’s comments from earlier in the week. I don’t know that I believe there are people who don’t want to be happy. I think it’s just that they aren’t ready to be happy. I also believe that the key to helping people make that internal shift is keeping your door open for them.
I wanted to write about healing this week because I know so many of us are in pain. We are in pain from things we rarely talk about. We are in pain from experiences we don’t even have the courage to share. We are in pain from issues close to home, as well as those we are witnessing a world away.
As I’ve watched what’s going on in Ukraine, I’ve thought a lot about the healing that will need to happen there. I’ve wondered, will all of these people that we see fleeing to safety be able to heal? I certainly hope so. I think the key to helping them will be for us all to keep our doors open—our hearts and minds open—so that we can offer them love and empathy when they are ready.
There’s so much pain in our world, and there is probably pain in you. But remember: there is always an opportunity to heal. And my hope is that you will heal, whenever you are ready. Never lose hope that it’s possible. Always keep your door open for the unimaginable.
PRAYER OF THE WEEK
Dear God, please help us choose happiness over heartache and peace over rage. There is so much pain out there, but may we never lose hope. May we never lose sight of the potential to heal. Amen.
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