My Java Journal

On Sympathy: Unexpected Growth In Loss

“Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.” – Buddha

A lady came into the coffee shop this week. She was curt, and clearly agitated. We served her as we do all customers; with a smile and an attempt to brighten her day.

I engaged in some light banter that seemed only to upset her more. It would have been easy to have reflected this disposition back, to have reciprocated this, seemingly, unwarranted negativity. Perhaps, had the interaction not taken the turn I am about to detail, I would have become agitated as a result of this interaction. Indeed, and I hate to think I would, but perhaps I could have defaulted to ill regards towards her.

She never gave me the chance to test my mettle in this regard. For that attempted light banter elicited from her a burden that quite literally broke my heart. This poor lady had just lost a daughter and three grandchildren.

Presumably, she had just received this news. The words came from her mouth quickly and matter-of-factually. Clearly, she needed to find some way to express this, she needed someone to hear her, to acknowledge her loss. The impact of her words, coming as they did so out of context and so unexpectedly, were not immediately absorbed. Once I processed those words, her distress now understood, my heart ached in a way I had trouble reconciling.

To appreciate that scope of loss is difficult. There seemed nothing to say or do that could lighten that grief. Still, something had to be done.

As I Write

This post is proving hard in the writing. Honestly, I don’t know if it is appropriate to write about this. I hope only that if she did read this that she could appreciate the impact her loss had on me. That stated though, this was as stark a moment of growth as one might experience. I hope it is received in the context for which I am sharing it; humanity and an expression of sympathy.

There is a quote. Another one of those quotes that is hard to attribute, which is perhaps more an aphorism than actual quote. You’ve heard it before:

“Be kind; Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

It is important to remember this and give quarter to someone who might be unduly terse towards you. Take that moment and be sure you were the intended target, perhaps you were only the closest one.


She had to wait at the coffee shop as life moved on around her. She was composed but suffering. In this case the hug that was offered seemed to go a long way. I don’t know what happened to her daughter and grandchildren. I didn’t ask. That detail seemed unimportant given that kind of loss.

Today I implore you to take time for your family and friends; do it now. Show gratitude and love. Finally, be kind and don’t underestimate the power of a hug. We are, each of us, fighting everyday. Some days are harder than others. Be kind.

For me, I took stock of my good fortune and family today. She likely won’t read this, but if somehow she does, I hope she finds it appropriate and finds some solace in the knowledge that her loss is now woven into my growth.

Express love and gratitude today. Please.

On a side note, if you find yourself on my website, it is currently undergoing construction. I am working to update it and make it a better experience. What you’ll find will be changing as I work through form and function.