People don't want to be in a state of discomfort. We all have our tidy little comfort zones in which most of us do our very best to stay put.
Whether it's being physically uncomfortable, or being in an awkward situation, or confronting someone who disagrees with or challenges ones views, we'd all rather be comfortable, right? I used to think so. But I've learned something over the past few years.
Being involved in theater productions at Epoch Arts, wherein Elizabeth Namen's plays challenge the way we look at things and nudge us into the not so comfortable, I've found myself relishing the unease I feel at times. Discomfort is good. It awakens us to our own prejudices and short-sightedness. It provokes us toward understanding, compassion, or at least learning a little something. Perhaps it even calls us to action.
If I surround myself with like-minded people all the time -people who agree with my personal, religious, and political stances, people who support my life decisions - then I don't grow as a person. If I only put myself in situations that are within my comfort zone, avoiding experiences, people, or lifestyles that are foreign to me, I narrow my vision of and for the world. If I block or unfriend people on social media who don't share my views, I only encourage myself to be as close-minded as I may think they are.
And so I park my van, get out, and talk to the guy asking for donations for his fake flowers at the side of the road. Low on funds myself, I bring him a bottle of water and a couple granola bars, and ask him what he needs. All he asks is that I stay for a minute and talk to him. He needs human connection - not the kind that yells insults as they drive by or that tells him there is no work for him today - but a willing, friendly, kind ear from someone who cares that a fellow human being is suffering, but doing his best.
He goes to the labor force place every day in hopes of getting work. On days that doesn't pan out, he stands by the side of the road handing out fake flowers, hoping for donations to cover the cost of them as well as a little extra for food and shelter. He doesn't know what else to do. I ask him if I can pray for and with him. We pray, tears streaming down both of our cheeks. I hug him, he thanks me. I tell him, quite honestly, that it was my pleasure and that I will hold him in my prayers.
Getting into my van, I see him packing up his stuff and starting to walk. I roll down my window, asking if he's ok. He says yes. He got all he needs to sustain him today. He thanks me again. I thank him for making my day so much brighter. I thank God for compelling me out of my comfort zone. And for blessing me with the gifts of compassion, touch, and prayer. We all have something to give, especially when we stray from our comfort zones.