The Bench


I clock a lot of hours on the bench at my kid’s gymnastics studio.  Not surprisingly, I hear more conversations than I would like to.  I’m not nosy, but I am female, so even though I try not to eavesdrop, sometimes it’s difficult to close my ears.

I’ve seen a lot of single dads at the gym lately.  You can always tell when there are drop offs between a tense mom and dad, usually in the middle of a divorce, and the gym is their neutral turnover zone.

Bags are exchanged.  Homework explained.  Guilt-trips are delicately laced with instructions.

Little kids wave goodbye to mommy or daddy and try and put on a brave face before their peers and coach.  Little tears escape, brushed away in an effort to be a “big girl.”

Shoulders are slumped.  Sadness exudes.  Defeat hangs like a dense fog.

I notice an air of confusion on many of the recently single parents.  It’s as if they wear a large sticker on their forehead reading “Why didn’t this divorce make me happier?”

One of these sad guys plopped himself down next to me the other day.  He looked well put together, effortlessly stylish –clearly he had money and confidence –and yet something was wanting.

Another man walked by and inquired how he was doing –and out the story spilled.

His wife left him for another man.  But not just any man –it was his best friend.  She is demanding $10k a month for her expenses.  She also left him with her daughter whom he was now raising.  They were married all of thirteen months.

Through his anger and liberal use of f-bombs, I heard heart-wrenching and desperately raw pain.

I tried to fade into the wall.  I didn’t want to hear it.  It brought back emotions and days I don’t want to remember.

I watched his little girl do a handstand and wave and blow kisses, trying to make him smile.  She could tell her daddy was hurting.

And it reminded me how every person I meet has a story. 

That even the uber-attractive and wealthy folks pulling out of the kiddie gym in a Ferrari are often dying on the inside. 

EVERY interaction and EVERY encounter I make is important to someone.  Each day I have the opportunity to bring life or death, joy or pain, comfort or more sorrow to an already suffering soul.

I was recently told by a pharmaceutical rep that our CVS Pharmacy in Ladera Ranch has the highest revenue in the nation of prescription anti-depressants. 

This means my community of beautiful wisteria clad homes, hard bodies, families with 2.3 kids, and happy smiley faces is secretly drowning in a disease of sorrow hidden behind image management.

I tried not to be intrusive, but as I left, I looked the man in the eye and acknowledged his pain.  He weakly smiled back and went on his way.

And I am brought to my knees, crying out to God for this hurting man, for my hurting community, and for a world where hope is holding on by a thin thread.

If you are one of those struggling today, please let me encourage you to hold on.  Reach out and let someone know you need help.  You can’t do life alone.  We need each other.  We need Jesus with skin on.  We need people.

God reveals himself and comforts us through those who have walked in our shoes and previously traveled down the dark roads. 

You aren’t alone.

Hang on my friends.  Hang on…



  1. Ali Woodard says:

    One of your best, sweet Sam.

  2. "Bookish B" says:

    Dear Scrappy,

    Sorry I am just getting to your “Friday the 13th Post” (in so many ways) about what you overheard on the kid gym “bench.” While I knew we live in the same community, I did not realize that we went to the same pharmacy, which is currently doing a land office business in Rx Anti-depressants (tops in the nation!). It is really difficult realizing amidst the perfect landscaping and perfect people with perfect cars, that there is this much perfect sadness.

    In an impromptu conversation yesterday, with a mom in the community Jacuzzi, in much less time than it should have taken, I learned that this mother of three boys was newly divorced and ran every day. She also made a point of showing off her surgical-enhanced physique, from several angles, and, yes, by golly, she did run every day.

    Her physical allure left me unaffected (am I dead?), because I was so deeply moved by her sad, sad story. At a time in her life when she should have been building happy memories with the “husband of her youth,” guiding her boys into young manhood, and looking forward to the less hectic days of middle and advanced age, she was back in the meat market of her teens and twenties, competing for men her ex-husband’s age who were busy looking at “newer models.” The profound sadness I felt at her predicament is beyond words (normally, not my limitation). This is an outcome you do not wish on an enemy.

    I am always delighted to be around happy children (truly an endangered species!). But, it was not until I moved here (Ladera Ranch) that I came to see how miserable kids could be with all the best designer labels on every stitch of clothing, riding around in top of the line vehicles, to their soccer, ballet, and after school activities.

    It is part of my spiritual DNA to encourage where I can. However, the problem is bigger than a chinwag in the Jacuzzi, a chat in the checkout line, or dialog on the doorstep. The problem is so far beyond my pay grade: this is a God-sized sadness.

    It is more than hanging on, Sam, though that is good first aid. It is Christ-followers, like you who can weep with strangers and then go down on their knees begging God to do what He does best: transform lives. It is people like you, Sam, who can live a life in such struggling submission to God that the rest of us look on in wonder, wishing we had whatever Scrappy Sam has.

    Sam, I celebrate your sensitivity and your insight into the Bad Part of Town (Ladera Ranch) and the larger world, that is broken by sin that can only be healed by Jesus. If ever there was a clarion call to knowing Jesus well and loving the world as Jesus loves us, it is your article Sam, and the time is now. Good bless you, Scrappy Sam, and the readers who take your words to heart!

    “Bookish B”

Leave a Reply to "Bookish B" Cancel reply

%d bloggers like this: