They went out to shop, but made little interaction with others and came right back home. You don’t see them that much because they tend to stay inside, mostly. They keep to themselves. Quietly, they mind their own business, not wanting to bother others. Their own family doesn’t call, stop by, write letters or interact with them much anymore, so they figure they’re a bother to others. 

They feel alone, isolated, and useless. Sometimes they wonder why they’re still alive.

The cashier always smiles and seems happy, but the responses such as, “Well, it will be good when I’m off in about an hour,” are a mere glimpse into the misery she feels. She’s a single mom, struggling to pay bills, feeling like a failure in life. Her parents are supportive and helpful, but she can’t help but constantly think she’s a disappointment to them. She is disappointed in herself, and feels so lost and stuck.

She’s much like that young man who appears to be doing just fine on his own. No, he’s not. He’s too prideful to tell you, but he, too, feels like his parents are disappointed in him and that he is a failure and is stuck. It’s not as easy as he thought it would be to survive on his own. He needs to move back home, but his parents stopped asking him to do so after he asked them to stop asking. 

Now, he hopes they’ll ask again because he is too afraid and embarrassed. He keeps this all to himself.

Everyone has a story. Even the homeless, the drug addicts, and the mentally ill. That’s someone’s daughter or someone’s son. That’s a person who once was full of so much potential, but is now stuck in a downward spiral and doesn’t know a way out.

Others all around us have stories, too, and some are going through a lot right now. You see them in school, church or the store. You see them in the park, at the mall, downtown, walking on the sidewalk or driving in traffic. Some you know, some you don’t. Some who are reaching a breaking point and need you. Some are reliable and would be there for you if you dared to get to know them.

The hard part is we have increasingly become a more reclusive society. We can shop online, have groceries or restaurant food delivered, pay at the pump and even check ourselves out in stores. We don’t have to interact with others as much anymore, so many of us don’t.

Most are just fine with that. We used to interact more with others, but one too many times we’ve been hurt. We don’t want to risk it again.

The reality is we still need each other.

Years ago, a driving-while-texting teen rear-ended me while I was stopped at a traffic light. Now, I have tinnitus in my left ear and sometimes it’s downright overwhelmingly annoying. Usually, that’s when it’s very quiet. For me, silence screams loudly.

Similarly, people all around us increasingly keep to themselves. They might interact some but it’s surface talk. The things that matter? They’re very silent about them. The things that bother them or are tormenting them? They stay quiet, not wanting to bother others with their problems.

Sometimes people in our own homes get eerily quiet. Often, their silence should be screaming at us. Their quietness could mean they’re going through something. Stay close. Listen to what is screaming in silence. 

Don’t ignore the silent screams.

“He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning.” – Ezekiel 33:5a

•••

Jeff Adams is pastor for Paramount Christian Church. His column appears weekly in the Nisqually Valley News. Email him at jeff@paramountchristian.org

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