You Never Know
You don’t know what’s going on in the lives of people you come across.
There’s the young man working two minimum wage jobs trying to support his growing family. He’s frazzled and in a hurry. His little girl was just transported to the emergency room because she is having trouble breathing. He left work and is headed to the hospital. He’s worried about her, and doesn’t know how he’s going to pay the bill when it comes. He cut you off in his car.
There’s the lady who answered the telephone when you called to make a complaint. She learned yesterday there’s a suspicious spot on her mammogram. Her mind is filled with what-ifs and she’s scared. Her aunt died of breast cancer. She has an appointment tomorrow for follow-up testing. She doesn’t sound particularly compassionate to your complaint today because her mind is elsewhere. You feel she doesn’t understand how inconvenienced and annoyed you really are.
Mom asked, for the third time, when you are picking her up. She doesn’t feel forgetful, but she can’t remember exactly what you said. The days seem to be running together and she may have forgotten her medication, again. You arrive at her house on time only to find she’s not ready. Mom is embarrassed and confused. You are upset. There’s no way you will make the appointment on time.
We tend to focus only on what is happening to us. When others don’t act as expected, we become angry, upset and frustrated. We see clearly from our particular point of view, but it is only part of the story.
There are reasons why people act the way they do, and there are many living heroic lives you know nothing about. You bump into them at the store, talk to them on the telephone, and see them at work or social events, but you don’t know their story. You don’t know what they’ve lived through, or what they may be facing at this moment. Their reality is different, often very different, from yours.
I know the temptation is to immediately judge what you see, but like an iceberg, there is so much more not readily apparent. Don’t assume the worst. I’m sure you can recall times when life was difficult and you didn’t act exactly right. Pain doesn’t bring out the best in people.
You don’t know what’s going on in the lives of people you come across. Be kind.