Recently I met with a teenager who was raped by a family member. She had not talked to anyone about it, except me. But everyone knows because it was in the news. They just don't talk about it.
The same day I saw a woman with a history of drug addiction who also has a severe mental illness. She has done well on medication, but has run out of some of her meds. Having moved to town recently and not having a car, she has had a hard time doing anything. She thinks she has enough money to pay for a psychiatric appointment, if I can help her find a place that can see her soon. Painfully shy, she almost begged me to continue seeing her, because she feels safe in a Christian place.
After that it was a young woman who answered "yes" to nearly all the symptoms I asked about, ranging from suicidal thoughts to headaches to anger problems to sleeplessness. The suicidal thoughts have been there since childhood. She says she has no friends. No transportation, no income. She stays at home to take care of a disabled family member.
Meanwhile, my co-worker was dealing with a situation I won’t even try to describe. It involves a long history of severe abuse from family members. Because of what has happened recently, we are trying to find somewhere for this person to stay. But because he is not addicted to anything, it’s hard to find an agency that will take him.
I left the office feeling drained that evening. The world I hear about in my office is sometimes a very ugly, sad, barren world. People who don’t believe in the existence of evil should sit in my chair for a few days. (Somehow that makes it more real than watching the news, I think.)
As I walked to my car, I was given a gift. Our blah, beige, concrete block building is bordered by hot, hard gravel. A width of beige-painted cement runs between the building and the gravel parking lot, which is surrounded by razor wire. Close to my car was a circle of charcoal ashes from the grill used for a July 4 lunch today. Nearby was a trash can used by employees who come outside to smoke.
And in a crack in that width of cement, right next to a drainpipe, a tiny spot of vivid purple and yellow caught my eye. I went closer and found a precious little viola growing there in the midst of that ugly, hard, utilitarian landscape.
The closest flowers to this spot are fifty feet away, so I’ve no idea how this little viola wound up growing in that crack. But it did, its beauty the more remarkable because of its surroundings.
And while the seeming wasteland I encounter in my office may seem ugly and barren at times, I have seen hope bloom there over and over. I’ve seen beauty grow there, and life and joy and peace.
"With God nothing shall be impossible."
(Photo of flowers growing in the ancient walls of Zadar, Croatia, from our trip last summer.)