It was musty and old. The sign of age was in the crinkled papers that rested haphazardly in the filing folders. The representation of hardship was everywhere within this room. The deep smell of tears wafted through the spaces of air. This was the File Room. A file folder represented every person that I knew in my life. This was our room. Our space of life.
Every morning we walked in with our stale coffee and lukewarm tea and we went to our assigned drawers. In unison, we opened the folders with our files and grabbed the papers within and stuffed them in our suitcases and bags. Some of the papers had coffee stains and others were torn and ripped through in frustration. The papers of our life were casually held and stored in the most convenient places we could find.
I stuffed my thick wad of trials into my blue bag and snapped it shut. Today, this would have to do. I shuffled past all the other people in my life and raced for the door for some fresh air. The breeze came at me suddenly. The freshness of the air allowed me to breathe for the first time this morning. My piles of paper were forgotten even though the wad was thick and crumpled. Fresh air gave me energy. The newness of it was always a wonder to me.
At the end of my work day, I gathered all my wrinkled papers to store them back in the secure File Room. If anyone read these papers full of my life, then I would be embarrassed or ashamed or a little of both. We all jammed into the File Room with our important papers. The lives we kept to ourselves. The discouragement that we kept to ourselves. The refusal to love the people around us. Our eyes were heavy with tiredness. Our minds numbed because we never spoke to each other. The smell of the File Room was older and the air was increasingly drafty.
Once again, we scurried to our assigned filing cabinets. Sierra Brock. I opened the drawer, pulled back the folder, and stuffed my wad of life in the space. I didn’t encourage the weary soul beside me. I didn’t care for the tired heart behind me. I closed and locked the drawer that held my file, then ran to the door for more fresh air. The dampness of the room chilled me to the very core.
That night, I saw a sign on my way home. The sign was new, and it read,”Love those around you. Comfort the hearts behind you. Encourage the souls beside you.” A little farther down the road, I saw the File Room that the sign had been referring to. The building was beautiful. It was inviting. The people came out with clean, white papers and each face held a real smile. My haggard body looked greatly in contrast to the hope that poured from them. I stood at the corner and stared at their File Room. These were people I didn’t even know. These people weren’t in my life, but they were joyful. I wanted to know the secret.
I trudged my way to the new File Room. My steps were slow, and I felt more defeated than ever before. I knocked on the door, but it was already slightly open. I heard a cheerful voice. “Hello, there! No knocking here. Do you need a place to share your burdens? Do you need some space to fellowship with others? I know we have room for you!” The man with the deep voice rounded the corner and looked at my weak face. His demeanor changed from caring to loving. “Miss, what can I do for you? Here. Have a seat and I will pour some water for you.” I took his offer quickly and made myself comfortable. When he handed me the cup of water, I slowly began. “I-I–I just have a question. I store my burdens in the File Room across the street. It is dark and damp…and cold. Why is your File Room so pristine, so real, and inviting?”
His smile did not release any sort of pity and I as thankful for this. He began, “Well…first of all, Miss, we don’t store burdens in our filing drawers, we share burdens here. Second, we take at least 5 minutes in the morning to encourage those around us. Our files are assigned in specific places for a reason. The folders behind and before your own are often the lives that you will be most influential in. Third, at night when we secure the burdens in this safe house, we remind each other that we are praying for one another. It is joyous to share our lives with each other and encourage the hearts around us.”
I was amazed at his words and ashamed at my selfishness. The old, dark File Room that I stored and locked my life in was a symbol of selfish people living a hidden, selfish life. I stood from the chair and handed the man his cup. I barely stuttered a thank you as I left the joyful File Room.
The next morning, I propped open the door to the musty old File Room and watched as tired souls trudged in to find their assigned filing cabinets and drawers. The fresh air flew through the dark maze of space and filled the room slowly. I found my file and unwrinkled the contents. I showed it to the woman beside me. “Hi, my name is Sierra. I am struggling with this.” I pointed to a bold area on the piece of paper. She glanced over at where I was pointing, then flipped through her file and found a paragraph for me to read. I read her words, deeply encouraged by the goodness of God and greatly excited to see someone had struggled just as I had. We walked out of the now dim File Room and were not nearly as anxious for fresh air as it was wafting through of its own accord. We walked to work together and talked of our lives and all we were learning.
And as I think of this, I saw you while I was walking out of our File Room this morning. The smell of your stale coffee reminded me that I need to love you. And I just wanted to ask if you could find the file that sits next to yours and encourage the heart that lies within those papers. That stale coffee won’t taste so bad anymore after you help the person next to you. I know, because this morning I read part of a friend’s file and she read part of mine. We encouraged each others’ hearts and walked out of the room together. The File Room across the street taught me something important and I hope you’ll learn it too.
It is simply that our File Room is meant for sharing, not storing.