I was smiling for the TV cameras, but I was dying inside

I sat in the Fox News Washington studio last fall and waited to be interviewed on “Fox & Friends” about a heartwarming op-ed I had written for Fox News headlined “What happened when my daughter saw me kiss my wife.”

My body was exhausted from an intense treatment for a chronic illness; a doctor had just reported that my dad would probably be dead in six months; and I felt like I was failing as a dad because I was spending too much time at work. I was lost in sea of depression and I couldn’t find my way home.When I heard the hosts’ voices in my earpiece and I knew the camera was rolling, I did the same thing I had been doing for months: I put on a smile. And when the interview was over, I looked into the camera and concluded with a relaxed grin. All appeared to be well.

I pulled out my earpiece, thanked the producer, left the studio and felt the weight of the world creeping back onto my shoulders. I wasn’t smiling anymore.

I went back to the grind of putting one foot in front of the other — just doing the next thing. It would be a couple of months before I began emerging from the heaviness of depression, thanks to what can only be described as divine intervention.

These days, I’m a lot more aware of the silent suffering of others and I’m less likely to assume the worst about people who are hard to be around. Along those lines, I posted a tweet last week that said, “We’ll all meet someone today who‘s being crushed by life. We won’t know who it is, so we might as well be gentle with everyone we meet. Because you never know.”

Shannon Bream from “Fox News @ Night” shared the tweet and said, “So true. I remember being back on the treadmill at the gym a couple weeks after my Dad died suddenly. It was all I could do to hold it together and it made me look around and think: who else here is in that kind of pain?”

A lot of people are.

I know a man who’s waiting to find out if his third round of chemotherapy worked. I know a woman who had three siblings die in less than a year. I know a woman whose husband puts her down all of the time. I know a man whose beloved son started hanging out with the wrong crowd and is now a drug addict.

These people just keep putting one foot in front of the other, doing the next thing — working, attending church, standing in line at the grocery store. They’re not telling many people how they’re feeling. It’s too personal, too painful — they might start crying if they try to talk about it.

There’s no way to know who’s hurting the most, so we can take care of others in practical ways.

We can ask people how they’re doing, follow up and give them a chance to respond honestly. We can avoid assuming our friends are doing well just because they’re smiling and saying they’re fine.

I can tell you from personal experience that it means a lot when you’re depressed just to get a thoughtful text or email. So let’s be good to the cashier, our child’s teacher, the person driving poorly in traffic, our co-worker and/or our parents. Let’s give others the grace we all need.

As it was once said, “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” — and those who are fighting the hardest battles may be right in front of you.

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