Some time ago, I met a lovely person on the plane as I traveled home from a business trip in Washington D. C. Her name is Miriam and she is from Iran. Miriam moved here in 1977, 2 years before the Revolution, when the Shah was deposed. This was a watershed moment in the history of the region and of the world, but on a very intimate and personal level, I was given a glimpse into an event that I’ve only read about on a global scale.
Numerous times during our conversation, Miriam marked time by the cataclysmic events that came to be known as “The Revolution”. “Before the revolution, this… and, after the revolution, that…”she would say. Miriam had definitely lived a full and interesting life, but what I’ll never forget about her was the sadness she carried like a sack of Jerusalem stone borne upon her shoulders. Though her eyes gleamed and her voice had a musical quality, she looked tired. Was this the sadness of someone simply getting along in years, or was there something more?
She eventually revealed to me that her mother had recently died, and that she had not seen her in 40 years. Months earlier, Miriam had to make the decision of whether or not to go visit her mother in Iran as she lay dying. With all the turmoil swirling around the Iranian elections that made international headlines taking place, her brothers and other family members strongly discouraged her from visiting. It was simply too dangerous they warned her. This was a very difficult position to be put in and while she was trying to process it all and make up her mind, her mother died.
Now it appears that a deep sadness will be her constant companion for quite a while, if not forever. She will continually be sorting through the pain of her indecision and delay. It must be a terrible thing to be put in such a predicament. I wanted to say something, bring her the truth of the gospel of Christ or something, but I was speechless. All I could do was let the woman talk and hopefully, let her know by listening intently, that I could hear her heart and I cared.
I marveled at Miriam’s quiet, reserved strength; a strength, possessed by many women in that region of the world so accustomed to, and known for, its wars, violence and hatred. I was blessed by her willingness to share her brokenness and despair so intimately with me on that plane, and while I wanted to do something great to help this woman, I realized there was little I could do.
Reflecting back however, I now realize that maybe I was given a glimpse of the hope that lies in the little things. For as Mother Theresa once said, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Perhaps, a small thing like listening intently to someone pour out their heart can be perceived as a great act of love that could change the world. My wife’s been telling me this for years; it’s a little secret that all women know, she says.
Maybe I should start listening!