The Problem of Pain

by Christy Gualtieri

The Gaza Strip.

Thousands of men, women, and children, squeezing themselves atop a rubber container that will hopefully – in the best case scenario – deliver them onto the shores of a country in which they do not know the language, do not know the culture, do not know anything except they cannot go back to where they came.

At home in America, infighting.  Right vs. Left; stalemates and refusals to compromise.  Lives lost to brutality; and service members killed daily in the line of duty.  Poverty forcing people to do unspeakable things.

Pain and fear are everywhere. It’s overwhelming.

What do we do with it?


The sun is getting ready to set (it sets so early these days).  I’m pushing my three year old son on a swing, and we’re talking about what things are beautiful.  

“The leaves are beautiful.  The sky is beautiful, mommy.”

He is innocent; he knows nothing about terrorism or war or poverty or acting out of desperation.  And he’s right; the sky is beautiful.  The leaves are beautiful.

Life is beautiful, ugly as it can be.


When 9/11 happened, I was in college.  From the roof of our dorm, you could see the awful black cavity where the Twin Towers stood.  The smoke bellowed for days on end.  No one knew what to do; everyone was terrified.  I watched CNN constantly.  I had to know everything – anything – that happened, even when there was nothing new to tell.  When a plane would fly overhead, I found myself getting jumpy, which surprised me.  

A professor I had at the time had two children in a daycare close to the towers.  She left our classroom immediately, took a cab as close as she could get to Manhattan, and walked the rest of the way.  It took her so long, but she got to them.  

On campus, students were asked to volunteer to spend the afternoon at the local elementary school, to keep the kids whose parents wouldn’t be coming home to get them company, to play with them and help them stave off the devastation just a little bit longer.

In our recent history, we’ve had 9/11.  Paris has just had its 11/13.  And in so many places around the world, people – people just like you and I, people with families and jobs and worries and fears and dreams – experience events like this every single day.

I don’t like to think about that.  I like to think about my little life, filled as it is with conveniences and joys, even when things are hard.  But the days are coming when more and more of us will be called to hold this reality: that terrible things like this happen with an incredible frequency.  But above that reality is a greater one: what kind of person have you become because of these tragedies? Have they caused you anger? Pain? Sorrow? Regret? A sense of solidarity? Revenge?

Because time will march on until the next tragedy, no matter where in the world it hits, be it man-made or environmental.  In that time, what person will you become?


Thanksgiving is coming up, and in light of all of the events of recent weeks, maybe it’s easier to pick out the things in our lives that we’re thankful for.  Let’s let that light continue to shine, dark as these days are.  We all need each other’s light.  I’m thankful for yours!

Until next time, be well!

Christy GualtieriChristy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!