Showing Up When It Hurts


Sarah Quezada -Acts of Compassion3By Sarah Quezada | Twitter: @SarahQuezada

When you’re three years old and King of the Tree House, there’s nothing better than slamming the trap door shut to keep out your big sister. I’m pretty sure that’s what my son Isaac was doing when his finger got in the way and he nearly took the tip clean off.

Over the next few hours, I learned a lot about motherhood. Things like, “Stop panicking. They are reacting to you. BE THE MOM HERE.” But I also learned valuable lessons about community and solidarity in the midst of pain.

I climbed down from the tree with my son in my arms, and my first words were pretty much, “I need a grown up!” Immediately, my friend Katie stepped up to the plate, bringing me a cloth to wrap it, calling a neighbor nurse friend, and spooning ibuprofen into Isaac’s mouth. She drove us to the emergency room while I held Isaac in the back, singing into his little ear and texting my husband Billy with my one free hand.

Katie stayed with me while Billy drove back to Atlanta from his out-of-town work conference, and she helped with all the things you can’t think about when it’s your baby: parking, finding my insurance card, getting snacks. Meanwhile, other friends texted and prayed and graciously took care of my daughter, who remembers this event as the greatest day of her life when a playdate turned into a sleepover.

Eventually, my husband arrived. Katie went home, and my son got anesthesia, seven stitches, and a popsicle. The next day, Billy and I commented on how grateful we were. So many people had allowed our emergency to interrupt their routines, and we felt convicted about being aware of others’ needs and making space in our own lives to show up when needed.

It’s so easy to get caught up in our day-to-day lives. After all, that’s what I’m doing every day. But when I stay distracted by all the things–throw in the laundry, pick up the prescription, respond to that email, check that project off my list–I  can become isolated. And the details of my day can take on a skewed importance.

Shortly after Isaac’s finger “incident,” we had several friends experience crushing heartbreak in the deepest ways through loss, violence, and disappointment. We found ourselves in a position to come alongside those who were hurting. And we tried to find ways to be in solidarity with those we love in the same ways people showed up for us when we needed them.

Sometimes care looks like a text message or a meal. Sometimes it’s a listening ear or jumping in the car to be physically present, regardless of distance. And sometimes it involves being up close and personal in moments we’d rather avoid. As Katie later told me, watching Isaac get his hand x-rayed was a “lovely” image she wouldn’t soon forget. Of course, she didn’t have to be present in the dim room with a sobbing toddler. But she came because I asked her.

When those we love need us, we need to show up. To be with them in their pain.

This practice can be harder than it sounds. So often we want to avoid pain. We want to sanitize it. So we try to explain it away. Or we look away from the source, whispering grateful prayers that whatever is happening is not happening to us. Because it hurts too much to sit with pain. To mourn suffering and loss.

But Romans tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (12:15) because solidarity matters. We must find ways to show up for those we love and those who are hurting in our churches, neighborhoods, and city. Our simple acts of compassion can have lasting impact on those experiencing vulnerability and hurt. 

These days, the only evidence that Isaac’s finger was ever injured is a wonky little fingernail. But my husband and I continue to be encouraged by the examples of solidarity we witnessed in our moments of panic and pain. The experience has been an ongoing reminder to us to be aware of others’ need and to show up when it hurts.


About Sarah:

Sarah_SQSarah Quezada is a writer and nonprofit professional living in a bicultural household in Atlanta with her husband and two kids. She has a master’s in sociology and writes regularly about social justice, family, and living across cultures on her blog, A Life with Subtitles. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.