A man shared with me recently that at his swimming competitions when he was a little boy, he would watch his teammate embrace his coach at the end of competitions and think of his own father. Although his father never went to his swimming competitions (only his mother), the image of his teammate embracing his coach at the end and his own father’s absence has always remained with him.
A while ago, I saw a short “Mormon Message” video on a blog I read that contained a simple message presented in a cute way. (I can’t find it now.) There were several members of a family participating in different activities, such as a soccer game or a musical recital. They would look up and see their entire family (parents or spouse, children or brothers and sisters) cheering them on. It gave the impression that no matter how little or insignificant that event was, their family thought it was a big deal.
Loving one another has to take concrete, practical form and this was a good reminder for me. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,” says Romans 12:15. Participating in others’ lives and feelings also has to take concrete, practical form. Taking this hint from Romans, we should celebrate what is important to others. Who doesn’t remember a special birthday present or surprise party? There are countless ways and things to celebrate with others: a new baby, a passed test, achieving a fitness goal, etc. How important it is also to “weep with those who weep,” and be present in the hard times. Just our presence, especially if it means coming from far or taking time out of our busy schedule, can mean the world to one in suffering. Mary didn’t take away Jesus’s cross or “fix” his problem in any way, but she accompanied him the whole way of the cross. So also taking the time to show we care for someone in need is a supreme act of love.
What is important to those around me, especially my family members? How can I support them in those things that are important to them? I heard in a homily on the Feast of the Holy Family that a way family members can love each other is to show interest in each other’s’ interests. How interested are you really in your brothers’ fascination for airplanes? Or even that family member’s contrary view to yours of religion? How often do we act defensively and try to correct or ignore others’ interests, instead of accompanying them and taking genuine interest in their life path. I felt a little embarrassed the other day when a friend came over to our house and asked my husband lots of interesting questions about cancer (his job). He got so excited and even took out books to show her and explain what he knew. I had never taken a genuine interest in the topics that motivated him… it took someone from outside.
In the same homily on the Feast of the Holy Family, I heard that we cannot solve others’ problems, each one has to do that for himself, but we can and should support others. Mary’s heart fell with Jesus’s every fall on the way to Calvary, but she didn’t interfere. It would have been easier to run away and not witness his suffering. She stayed to support him. Anyone with knowledge of alcoholism or addiction knows that “enabling” the addict can take various forms of “protectionism” (not letting them fall, bailing them out of situations), but that doesn’t actually help the addict. On the contrary, it just impedes his or her growth. So supporting our family members does not mean getting in the way of their individual path with God, but instead accompanying them and making them feel loved every step of the way.
A family is a group of people who love each other practically, although of course not perfectly. Being involved in another’s life is an active choice that is made up of tiny acts of support, self-sacrifice and cheering on. Who can you rejoice with or weep with today?