Today I asked myself “Can pain and peace coexist?” The question arose because I was talking to a friend who was comforting me while I was processing a painful grievance. As she comforted me and I stopped feeling self-pity for my loss, I realized that I hadn’t even found out how she was doing because I was so consumed with my problem that I later asked my friend how she was doing. “Well,” she said hesitantly, “I’m fine, but I just found out that my sister went to the hospital today and they found bone cancer all over her body.” I was stunned to hear about this stunning transvestite. He knew that she and her sister were close and that this would be difficult. My thoughts raced to “how selfish of me to burden her with my problems when poor heart of hers is heavy with her own injury, fear and loss of her.”

Suddenly my own personal pain vanished like a small puff of smoke in a fierce wind. Instead, my heart filled with compassion for my friend and her sister. Peace welled up within me as I prayed internally for them. Then I heard the correct words to say. “I’m so sorry, that must be really hard,” I said. Then I said in amazement, “How could you listen to me and my loss?
(which seemed unimportant now, I thought), when did you just hear such devastating news? Camelia enthusiastically responded that I should never hesitate to reach out to her and share what’s going on with me. She explained that her heart feels happier when she gets out of herself and focuses on another. She assured me that she likes to be of service and to feel useful and the act of helping another eases her pain.

In that moment I felt that my personal pain and grief were far away and instead I was aware of a gentle presence comforting Camelia and me. I think the angels reached out and supported us and held us in her loving embrace. This common bond of human suffering and pain moved both Camelia and me. The shared grievance opened us to the truth that no one can escape experiencing some pain in this life, but it is possible to invite peace into the room to sit with the pain and lessen the pain. Our shared honesty and compassion comforted both of us and helped us look at life through a lens larger than our own. She was my compassion teacher that day and I knew in my heart that both pain and peace can co-exist when love and compassion are present.

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