The Healing Power of Sunscreen

By: Emma Johnston

I’m not blaming the giant batch of chocolate chip cookies I made, but for some strange reason my two oldest had the hardest time falling asleep the other night. At first grumpy at their parents, then chatty as they found allies in one another, then, as the night wore on, the imagined aches and pains and phobias began. A stomach ache, a headache, the need for a drink of water, sore back muscles, a leg that fell asleep… they brought out all the stops.

My husband and I had taken turns responding to our kids’ incessant cries for help, but his patience had lasted longer than mine – so, when my fifth turn came and the last thing I wanted to do was to check for an invisible eye lash in my son’s eye, my husband volunteered.

He walked to the medicine cabinet and pulled out a bottle of sunscreen (yes, it’s February) and then marched to the boys’ room. I watched him, curious.

Within minutes he was back, put the sunscreen away and flipped on our television show. The boys went right to sleep.

In one fell swoop, he’d fixed all their issues. He’d treated the back ache, headache, leg ache -all with a bottle of sensitive skin sunscreen. One good application of the UV 30, coconut smelling sun protection and all their problems went away.

I wish I could treat all of my own problems, both real and imaginary with a bottle of sunscreen. That my flaws and heartaches and anxieties could be taken away as easily as they were for my children. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the application of a little bit of sun protection would take away everything from a hangnail to a migraine to insomnia?

I wish I could pass a bottle of sunscreen to my friends fighting cancer, could smear a bit on the backs of those with depression, could rub it on the temples of those who feel lost or lonely or forgotten. I wish the incredible healing powers of sunscreen would travel a little further than my own little boys’ bedtime fiasco.

But maybe it wasn’t only the sunscreen that cured my children’s invisible ailments. Maybe there’s more to it. Maybe it was the fact that their dad cared enough to take their needs seriously. Maybe it was because they felt like someone had their back, someone cared about them, someone loved them enough to help them find solutions to their childlike difficulties. Maybe it was just the fact that their dad was there, looking after them, keeping them safe that brought my little monkey’s their magical healing –

And I wonder if that kind of healing power exists within each of us. Not that we can take away someone’s anxiety or cure their diseases or make their lives pain free, but what if loving them, what if taking the time to stand with them, what if walking beside someone and caring about them and taking them seriously and doing our best to help, is, in someway therapeutic?
What if I spent less time trying to figure out what I wanted (the other night it was to watch my show and eat the left-over cookies), but instead spent a little more time looking beyond myself. Finding out what my family needs, looking for ways to stand behind my friends, showering the people in my circles with love.

Maybe that will help? I won’t cure of fix anything, but maybe it will give them just a little more peace, a little more strength, a little more power to rise above their own struggles.

My husband, realizing our nice words and encouragements weren’t enough to help our children sleep, came up with a new solution. A little unorthodox, but successful. He didn’t do anything miraculous or difficult, but he took the time to hear his kids concerns and show them that he cared.

As much as I hate to admit it, I will learn from this, I will be more diligent in my care of others. I will pass along the equivalent of sunscreen for the ailments that plague the people I care about. Whether that’s a meal, or a prayer, or a glass of wine on a Thursday evening. I’ll do better.

Maybe we can’t heal each other or take away the pain or sorrow, but maybe, with a little more time and love and care, we can make finding peace, just a little easier.

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