Let it Flow: The Value of Crying for Others
The father watched carefully over his impish five-year-old daughter, reminding her
to say “please” and “thank you” and to “always, always be kind.”
He redirected her when she got too rambunctious, banging drumsticks on the green
felt top of a nearby pool table.
And every step along the way, he showed his little kindergarten-bound daughter
love, hugging her, kissing the top of her head and tucking her flowing brown
hair behind her ears.
The scene, which we were lucky enough to be a part of while volunteering overnight at
an area homeless program, hit my 7-year-old daughter, Hannah, hard.
“The moms and dads care about their kids so much,” she said, pausing for a few
seconds to think about the idea more, as tears filled her eyes and trickled
down her freckled cheeks. “How are they homeless? Something must be really
wrong, Mommy. Just really wrong.”
It was difficult in that moment for me to see the tears and to hear the catch in
my young daughter’s throat.
Part of me wanted to whisk her wiry frame up into my arms and to carry her far away
from that place, where there was no denying that very good people – including
husbands and wives and children, and even newborn babies, find themselves
homeless in America every day.
But I knew, in that moment, that Hannah’s tears had to come – that they were a
difficult but necessary part of the process of learning to care not just about
our own needs but about the needs of others.
Until she fully saw the humanity and goodness of those struggling homeless families,
she could not begin the difficult process of caring about the “why” of
homelessness – and also considering what her role and responsibility is in
And like so many of the lessons that I try to help my children learn, the same is
true of me, really.
Until I am willing to fully see the horrific pain and suffering of others – and to
recognize, also, that I could just as easily be standing where they are – I
cannot begin to meet them where they are and to offer help.
So, I didn’t try to distract Hannah from her tears. Instead, I just wrapped my arms
around her as my own eyes filled with tears and said, “I know my girl, I know.”
And I have to believe that there is power and strength and tremendous value in that