silent strength“The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us but those who win battles we know nothing about.”

When I first read this quote last week, it stuck in my mind and wouldn’t let go.  I’m only beginning to understand why.  The lesson came through a group of chlorine soaked teenage boys.

My son has been on the high school swim team for almost three months now and thanks to practices, swim meets and lots of driving, I’m getting to know quite a few young men who were previously unknown to me.  It isn’t surprising that I often find myself praying for one or more of them.

I pray for the would-be bully who isn’t getting any traction with this group.  He is obviously a troubled soul.  I pray for the seniors who will be starting college next year.  I pray for the exchange students who are struggling to study in a second language while learning all new customs.

When I spot a crossroad or a need, I pray for those who are there.

I also give prayers of thanks for the seniors who have taken the goofy freshman, including my son, under their wings. They have helped these younger swimmers learn the ropes not only of high school athletics, but high school in general.  There have been numerous lectures on which girls are bad news, stay away from the drug users, and get those grades up.

When I see someone doing good things, I give thanks.

But what about those boys who swim well and get good grades, but don’t stick out in any way?  One boy on the team walks past me every day.  He’ll nod if I speak to him, but he won’t ask for a ride when no one is there to pick him up.  Pouring rain?  40 degrees?  Not to worry.  It’s only a three mile walk and he’s done it before.  After all, that is probably how things have been since his mother died of cancer.

I only found out that last bit very recently.  Now, when I don’t know what to ask for someone, I pray that God may give them strength and that my eyes will be opened to any need I can address, even if it is as simple as a ride home in the rain.

There are so many people quietly persevering all around us.  They aren’t drawing attention to their sorrows or their triumphs.  In fact, it might take some study on our parts to even spot them.  But they are there and they too need our prayers and our compassion.