Pay Attention to Your Tears

Hank Mattimore
17 Jun 2008
Reproduced with Permission

Frederick Buechner once wrote that "Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears. It is well to pay the closest attention. They are not only telling you the secret of who you are, but more often than not of the mystery of where you have come from and are summoning you to where you should go next."

I do cry a lot doing this kind of work. Seeing first hand the loneliness of our village kids, knowing how little love they have had from the parents who should have been there for them, being at times excruciatingly close to their neediness, I am at times emotionally shaken. They do not deserve the way they have been treated. No kid does.

Buechner's words tell me to pay close attention to my tears and ask .. What do they say about me? That I am an old softie? Sure, I already knew that. (The kids have figured that out a long time ago.)

But his words go further. He says the tears "are not only telling you the secret of who you are but - the mystery of where you have come from." This puzzles me because, at first glance my childhood had little of the trauma that is part of these kids' lives. But, a close friend of mine, noticing me tearing up when I talked about the abuse our village kids have been subjected to, observed that maybe I ought to look deeper into my own boyhood. Could it be that there is hidden hurt there that I have not acknowledged?

I think she's right. My intact working class family was a good one but even the Brady Bunch had their troubles. My parents were not perfect. I can't recall either parent ever actually saying "I love you" or giving any of us kids a big hug. It was a different world, at least in our Irish-Catholic subculture of the 40's. So, there were times I felt very lonely as a kid, even in a big family. I was also painfully shy. Looking back, I find myself being grateful that my own boyhood was NOT idyllic. It helps me to identify in a small way to the pain our village kids have experienced. Somehow, it seems fitting that my own loneliness as a child may have summoned me to my calling to be a surrogate grandpa at the Children's Village. Life is a mystery isn't it?