I picked Cadence up from school one day this week and her shadow told me that Cadence sang all afternoon. For those new to the blog, Cadence is my oldest daughter who has Autism and is essentially non-verbal.
When Cadence sings, it’s not with words. She sings with sounds and rhythms to a tune that she has made up in her head. She loves to hear the choir sing at church and is known to randomly start singing during the sermon. The sweet people at our church are so gracious and love her. They recognize that she can worship too.
But the singing that Cadence was doing at school was not easy worship. It was loud, obnoxious, at the top of your lungs, disrupt the whole school kind of singing. And she was very, very, animated about it too. To someone who doesn’t know Cadence very well it would appear that she was very happy.
I brought her home from school yesterday and as the afternoon wore on I realized there was something causing her physical pain. She doesn’t have words to tell me, so it isn’t always recognizable at first. As soon as I realized, I did what I could to help, and immediately it occurred to me: The singing all afternoon was the warning that something was wrong. It was her way of coping with physical pain.
Sometimes we look at people and we see their actions and think they are happy and life is good. But that isn’t always the case. It reminds me of this joke:
Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel.
Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is
vague and uncertain. Doctor says the treatment is simple. The great clown
Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.
The man bursts into tears.
“But doctor . . . I am Pagliacci.”
The truth is, this joke is no joking matter. It’s how many live their lives. Hidden behind a mask that looks happy when their heart is breaking inside. And unfortunately, I doubt there’s a place containing more masks than the average church service on a Sunday morning.
Why do we hide the truth? Why do we pretend and worry about what others think? Why is keeping up appearances more important than getting help? When we spend so much energy hiding the truth, we don’t have any left to spend on healing. When we hide the truth then we lock ourselves in a prison. And sadly, when the truth of our pain is revealed it usually happens in a desperate and awful way.
I’ll admit, I don’t really know the answers. I’m out of my depth when it comes to the pain some people face. I’m no professional counselor. But what I do know is that people, like Cadence, don’t always have the words to put to their pain. And sometimes they throw themselves into something else in order to cope with the pain. And so we don’t really see the truth. When people are able to be truthful about their lives, they are more likely to find the help they need. So maybe we can just offer a little more grace to people. Not push so hard for perfection. Not judge. Pray for wisdom to have eyes of truth that see pasts the happy masks so we can love on those who most desperately need it. Because things are not always as they seem.