I watched a popular sitcom the other night. One of the main characters is often ridiculed due to some of his bizarre behavior. Most, if not all of his peculiar actions are related to his obsessive-compulsive disorder. Most of the time he ignores their mockery, but in this episode he made a sincere effort to help one of his friends understand what it feels like to be him.
I was touched as I listened to this character explain the discomfort and even pain that he can feel during normal activities. I wondered how many of the people that I see and interact with every day might be suffering from some kind of pain or torment invisible to me.
As I reflected on this, I was reminded of an experience from my childhood. When I was six years old, my parents were shopping for a new house. Tired and bored, I wandered off to explore one of the homes on my own. By the time my parents realized I was no longer with them, the realtor had locked the front door from the outside, and they were getting in the car. As I watched my family preparing to leave without me, I was sure that my six year old world had just come to an end.
Soon after, my family went to visit relatives in Colorado. While there, I became locked in their bathroom. I was locked in for what seemed like hours. I was certain that I would never get out and that my parents would return home without me. I know my parents never would have left me there, but to my six year old brain it seemed plausible at the time.
After these incidents, I was terrified of being locked in. For months, even years, afterward I could not lock the door to a public restroom. My mother would have to hold the door closed because I became hysterical if she tried to lock it. Even today, it still bothers me a little, and if I have any trouble with the latch or lock…..it bothers me a lot.
I know that the anxiety and fear I have felt and sometimes still feel about locked doors is irrational. I know that there is no reason for me to fear a locked door, but that does not make the fear any less real to me. My phobia or anxiety is very mild, a minor annoyance, and I am for the most part recovered, but there are many people that suffer from much greater fears and anxieties. There are people around us who suffer from illnesses, pains and worries that we cannot see with our eyes.
Much of the pain and suffering in the world is invisible to us. We often cannot see and do not know what others are forced to endure. So, I will try to remember this sitcom character and my six year old self, and I will try to be a little kinder, a little more sensitive, and a little more compassionate to everyone I meet. I will try to follow the example of the Savior and love everyone as He did, and as He still does….