I have learned that almost every person alive is suffering from an unspoken and mostly unrealized pain that bubbles right under the surface. They hide it, but if anything difficult happens, they can no longer contain the pain, and out it comes--often in great gouts that engulf themselves and those around them.
Fear and pain have become the norm in our world, so it mostly goes unnoticed until the volcanic eruptions that occur when we just can't take anymore. If you really want to make a difference in the lives of others, try looking for the pain that is almost always there, instead of waiting for the blow-outs, at which point most people can't accept help.
While I was checking out at Wal-Mart one day, I noticed that the customer in line ahead of me was really giving the clerk a hard time. When it was my turn to check out, I could see the pain on her face, so I reached out, touched her arm, and said, "That guy was unhappy long before he met you, kid. It wasn't about you."
Her smile lit up the store.
A woman approached me after a seminar to ask a question about her child. Instead of answering her question, I said, "Do you even know how much pain you're in all the time?"
She burst into tears, and when she could speak again, she said, "Everybody expects me to be cheerful and helpful all the time, so I try to do that. I'm exhausted. In all my life, nobody has ever asked me about my pain."
We are surrounded by people in pain. If we look for it, we can often speak up and bring a ray of hope into lives otherwise shrouded in darkness and despair. In our defense, most of us are too consumed by our own pain to have enough emotional energy to address the pain in others. We don't have to take responsibility for the pain of others, but we can take tiny steps in the direction of at least recognizing it.
Learn how to truly love others and give them what they need.