What about all the rest?
We’ve talked about Loved Ones, those of us who suffer day in and day out from either physical or mental illness. We’ve talked about Watchers, us whose lives are directly affected by their illness, and are called to love them, yet are unable to help them.
But what about those who fit into neither category? What about those who do not battle chronic pain, yet do not do life closely with those who do?
Do we need to address them?
Do they have a place on this blog?
Is their interaction with sickness and pain even slightly comparable to our own?
What if… they are us?
They are us
We all like to use labels. And they are necessary, and useful. Sometimes, however, they miss the mark. They cause us to overlook questions that need to be asked, and they paint the entire situation with broad sweeps, when actually, life is a lot more intricate.
When they leave us talking about ‘them’ and ‘those people’, it’s easy to forget that some of the time, in some circumstances, those people are ‘us’.
We are all Wider Watchers.
It doesn’t matter if we are also Loved Ones or Watchers. It doesn’t matter if we’ve never met anyone with a chronic illness or we work in a hospital and it’s all we see.
People in this world are hurting, and whether their pain directly impacts our personal lives or not, this makes us Wider Watchers.
If you want to contest this, turn on the TV or open your ears. Our sisters are dying in warzones and concentration camps. Our brothers are perishing in wealthy first world nations and weeping behind closed doors.
I’m firmly convinced there are only three options. You are either suffering, Watching someone suffer close up, or Watching someone suffer from far away.
Some of us are Loved Ones, Watchers, and Wider Watchers.
God be with you.
The rest of us could be any combination of the above, but we are at least one and probably two.
They are others
‘You’re a Watson to his Holmes.’
The phrase is used to describe a particular sort of relationship. If it doesn’t mean anything to you, do a google. If it still doesn’t resonate with you, think of it this way: we are children to our parents, but a lot of us are also parents to our own children. We are both a parent and a child – just not to the same person. You are not your child’s child, and their parent.
We can be Watchers and Wider Watchers, but not to the same person.
In this sense, those who are our Wider Watchers are always ‘others’. They are always ‘them’. In another relationship they may be Loved Ones or Watchers these things, but not this one. In this one they are Wider Watchers – and so it is important that we talk about their role as well. It is important that we acknowledge that ‘them’ and ‘they’ exist. They are not always us.
They have no choice to see
Like Watchers, Wider Watchers also have no choice about Watching. Very rarely do our lives meander through time without encountering one iota of suffering, one smidge of illness.
There are people suffering everywhere and we cannot help but see.
Even if we close our eyes, our ears can still hear the cries of the world.
Wider Watching is unavoidable.
They have a choice how to respond
Responding to sickness is also unavoidable. We all must (and do) respond – even if our response is to walk away, to ignore, to harden our hearts and say ‘that’s not my problem’.
And the sad truth is, Wider Watchers can do that.
Unlike Watchers whose lives are forever entangled in their Loved Ones and are often unable to leave, Wider Watchers have the freedom to go.
They have the freedom to get involved as much or as little as they would like. They can hand money to a charity to aid abuse victims and make sympathetic noises when they hear of someone down their street’s cancer diagnosis. They can devote their lives to freeing child slaves or spend their weekends taking mentally disabled friends on trips.
The world is their oyster – and that is hard. Hard to know where to start and when to stop. Hard to prioritize and choose. To say ‘no’ when they have to, and ‘yes’ when they don’t.
It is also beautiful. Sometimes a freely given sacrifice ought to be admired more than a ‘necessary’ one. Being a Wider Watcher means having the freedom to love in multiple ways. It is a blessing to be able to choose where to actively love, and also a great responsibility.
Watching is for us
We must treasure our Wider Watchers, and make sure that we ourselves are Watching Widely. It is a privilege and a struggle.
Most of all, we must see that no good thing is wasted. That is, it doesn’t matter who the recipient is. Ourselves, people we have not met, those we have heard of. The sacrifice of Wider Watchers, their response, is always to us – even when they are Watching someone else.
This is because, Christians and non-Christians alike, we are all brothers. As Christians this gains even more significance – we are all members of the one body, and are called to bear each other’s burdens.
God was and is, both Watcher and Wider Watcher – He both loved from heaven and loved from earth.
Being a Wider Watcher always has significance, because they are us, and their sacrifice is our own.
// Do you feel like you have a choice about ‘Watching’? Do you ever envy those who do?