31 July 2009

Not the sexy

In the depths of night, we count the lives our actions have cost, but we are not given to know the number we have saved. -Anonymous

It's easy to count the cost of the lives you've taken, the hearts you've wounded. They are clearly visible, obvious in the harsh light of self-reflection. The remembered tears in a lover's eyes when you hurt them, the cold cast of the dead man's skin whom you couldn't save. It's terribly easy, in the deepest darkness of night, to count the cost of the lives you've taken and the hearts you've wounded. Your nightmares show you clearly the accusing eyes of the dead, the weeping voices of people you've harmed- whether witting or unwitting. Your memories in the dark of night offer you a litany of faces, of names, and endless stream of, "I should have's".

But it is not given to use to know the lives we've saved, the hearts we've mended all unwitting. No one knows, in the dark of night, how many lives they've turned around with a kind word, or how many hearts they've mended with courtesy and respect. No one knows the number of lives they've saved by giving the keys to a friend when drinking, or being the friend who's stayed sober. We don't know the lives we've saved by sitting and listening to someone who's hurting, or stopping to help someone on the side of the road.
We don't know whose lives we've changed by being courteous and treating people kindly... and perhaps teaching them, all unwitting, how they deserve to be treated. We don't know whose wounds we've healed simply by being an unjudgemental ear.

The soldier knows only those lives he's taken, and it is they which haunt him in the hours before dawn. He knows the deaths which follow him, knows the accusing eyes of the comrades he couldn't save. But it is not shown to him the lives he saved, the attacks his presence thwarted, or the laughs of the children who will grow up because of him.

It is given to us the burden to count our dead, that we might be more gentle in our lives- but only the Gods can count those we've saved.

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