Not Always What it Seems

Not Always What It Seems

by Diana Laskaris, Stephen Ministry Leader

 The voice on the other end of the phone was familiar to me but sounded so different I hardly recognized it. The caller was someone I had known for a very long time, but we hadn’t talked in some time. The somber tone she used was not consistent with the way I thought about this usually bouncy, happy, full of love and light person. Her Facebook page always looked so overflowing with fun and joy, that even though we hadn’t spoken on the phone in awhile, I didn’t expect I was missing much of what was happening in her life. Oh, how wrong I was.

 I came to realize how long it really had been since we’d talked when this sweet person, whom I have known since we were little kids in elementary school. Despite my moving from city to city, then state to state, we somehow managed to keep in touch on a regularly irregular basis. We always enjoyed our time together, whether virtual or in real life. But this time she wanted to fill me in on what had been happening in her life beyond the reach of Facebook. And, it was a lot.

Her mother, whom she loved very much and was extremely close with, had lost her battle with Alzheimer’s and died. Her father was inconsolable, and he himself had serious health problems too. She had somehow reconnected with a handsome guy we went to high school with and they got engaged. But neither of them had any money or a predictable income and they were barely getting by. Finally, she had experienced a detached retina and some other issues with her eyes that required her to have multiple surgeries, the cost of which would not be entirely covered by her health insurance.

 We talked for several hours. Mostly, she talked and I listened. I offered something she couldn’t get from those around her – an opportunity to set aside the façade and share her burdens with someone who didn’t offer answers or opinions, but was more than willing to listen, comfort and support her. I wished I had some answers for her, but I didn’t. And in the end, that was a blessing. She didn’t want someone to “fix” her life. She just wanted someone to know what was really going on in it, stuff beyond the Facebook page that doesn’t get liked or shared. Don’t we all have that stuff too?

 “Appearance vs. Reality” has always been one of my favorite themes in literature. It’s the idea that there is a world in which everyone operates that is very different from the one most are able to perceive. The masks we wear on a daily basis show our best selves - on social media, in the workplace, sometimes even with friends and family. But it’s healthy to have a place to be our authentic selves, with all our worries, imperfections, fears, questions and to know that we are okay, even if we are sometimes a hot mess.

 There are times in our lives when we feel we need to keep up those appearances of having it all together to those around us. Stephen Ministry provides a place where you can go to let your hot mess out and explore the real you. You won’t find someone to give you all the answers, but like my friend, you will find someone to listen, care and share with the authentic you. And sometimes, that can be the best reality of all.