The Walking Wounded

The holiday season can be a traumatic time. How can we love the walking wounded among us?

Andrea Martin is the pen name of a freelance writer from Chicago, Illinois.

The holiday season can be a traumatic time. When families gather, they often bring a lot of emotional baggage that contains unresolved conflicts and past hurts. Far too many have their balloons burst by unthinking relatives. They need someone who will affirm them and build them up—not tear them down. Proverbs 12:25 reminds us: "Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad."

If a friend comes to our house on crutches, we rush to seat him in the most comfortable chair and ask what we can do for him. Yet how often do we ignore the "walking wounded" with whom we come in contact? They may not be literally incapacitated, with bandages or canes, but they have scars of the psyche and spiritual hurts.

In wartime, we talk of the "walking wounded" to differentiate between those who are bedridden and those who have less severe injuries. Like­wise, there are people all around us who can walk but who suffer emotional traumas. They also need our love and attention. Yet they do not always communicate their hurts in words. We must be alert to pick up on their unspoken signals.

With depression and suicide so prevalent today, we need to be quick to compliment and slow to criticize —and especially so during the holiday season.

When one of my sons attempted suicide, I was grateful that he was rescued in time. He recovered with­out any long-term physical effects. Al was later confined for a week in a psychiatric hospital for protective custody and counseling. Our family visited him daily and took him gifts.

Upon his release, Al promised that he would never again try to take his life. He later told us, "I didn't realize you all loved me so much."

How sad that as we grow older, we sometimes tend to ration our affection with an eyedropper rather than with a wheelbarrow!

This experience taught our family that sometimes the people who seem so prickly and unfriendly need attention and love even more than the outgoing ones. As a child, Al had misbehaved to get extra attention. As he grew older, he withdrew into himself.

Quiet and reclusive as a teen, he had never been able to talk much about his hurts. Now, through counseling, he has learned to do so.

The walking wounded you come in contact with need a listening ear and an understanding heart more than a mouth that spouts platitudes. Pray that you, like Isaiah, might say, "The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak the word in season to him that is weary" (Isaiah 50:4).

At this Christmas season, serve up a heaping dollop of love with the Christmas goodies. Wrap all your Christmas gifts with love. Be generous with your hugs and kisses and heartfelt compliments.

As the scriptures remind us in 1 Corinthians 13 (my paraphrase), "If I send tracts with all my Christmas cards, serve a sumptuous Christmas dinner after saying grace, and surround my Christmas tree with mounds of gifts for everyone, but have not love, it availeth nothing."

The walking wounded won't bring wheelchairs or come in ambulances. But they will be just as fragmented. It's up to us to love them uncon­ditionally. Pour out the love of the Lord to them liberally.

Love is truly the only answer for the hurts of those around us!