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Kids have not had a banner week, what with falling into gorilla enclosures and wrecking $15,000 LEGO statues and all. I have not formed an opinion on these events. I shouldn’t — I’m not a parent. I have no idea how tough it is to wrangle a small human being with a mind of its own. In fact, I’m not fit to judge anyone. I don’t know their lives: I’m not bipolar. I’m not an adoptee. I did not come from an abusive home. I’m not transgender. By the same token, you can’t possibly understand me, having not lived a life with the exact same contours, colored by the same emotions, experienced by a brain with its own unique wiring. No one can.

We are each alone in our brokenness. That fact tends to put up walls. More and more often, we see people wallowing in their aloneness, letting that aloneness define them. Why reach out to others when they can’t possibly understand? What is there to do but to trumpet my unique aloneness to the world?

There are constructive ways to deal with our aloneness. Several, in fact. One is to realize that, although our specific brand of aloneness is particular to our lives, we are all — every last one of us — broken and in need of healing. We actually have that in common. Maybe your “broken” differs from mine, but we can still reach out to one another in our common brokenness. I can’t understand yours and you can’t understand mine, but we can both understand how it feels to be sad, lonely, afraid, messed up. We are alone…but in a very crowded room. One touch is all it takes to bridge the gap.

Second, no matter how offbeat your type of aloneness is, there is someone who understands it. And you don’t need to go looking for a support group to find them. God understands every kind of brokenness there is, every kind of sinfulness, every kind of loneliness. Nothing is too foreign, too sensational, or too strange. I can’t promise instantaneous cures to your every injury, but I can promise that there is a listening ear out there who truly, deeply gets you. And, again, the chasm isn’t nearly as deep as you think it is. Open your mouth (or mind) and let it out.

Just as Emily Dickinson once opined that she was a nobody and asked if you, the reader, were a nobody too, let me be a literary catalyst: Hello, I’m broken. I’m a mess. I feel alone. How about you? Are you broken, too?

And if so, can’t we be broken together?

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It’s an old joke: A guy goes to a Chinese restaurant, eats his meal, then cracks open his fortune cookie, only to read the title of this post. Ha, ha. What’s less funny is that so many of us really are trapped: by the physical limitations and illnesses that beset our bodies, or by the more invisible, but no less crippling, illnesses of our minds. What do you do when there’s no fortune cookie around for you to send out an SOS?

It’s easy to say, “Talk to someone about it.” And most of us are comfortable — or at least willing — to discuss our physical woes with a doctor or other understanding soul. Our mental woes…not so much. Why? Perhaps we don’t want to burden others. Or we think our problems are unimportant compared to the afflictions others are carrying. Or maybe we are ashamed. Mostly the last one, I think.

Having a mental illness or issue is still viewed, by many, as a personal failure, a lack of will. If you’re depressed, think a happy thought! If you’re anxious, stop worrying — it’s silly. If you can’t control your thoughts or emotions — well, cowboy up! Grow a spine! None of these responses help someone. I know that mental illnesses are hard to understand — I watch “Hoarders” sometimes just to horrify my own inner neat freak, asking myself, “Why? Why on earth would anyone DO that?” But in point of fact, some people do. What are the rest of us going to do about it? How is my reaction helpful? (Note: It isn’t.)

I’ve lost friends (plural) to depression. I wasn’t close enough to help them, or maybe I wasn’t listening. Or maybe they never reached out. But from now on, I’m going to behave like everybody out there is carrying a heavy burden, mental or physical. Because they ARE. I just can’t see it. We are, each of us, trapped in a fortune cookie factory of our making.

We have two choices: reach out to God or reach out to one another. (Make that three choices: to do both.) If you are carrying something heavy, I want you to tell me. I want to pray for you. I want to listen to you. I want to tell you that I love you, even if I don’t know you. I hope you will afford me the same comfort. Let’s help each other. God put us together for a reason.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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