It has encounters, dreams, moments, losses, and things. In it there are achievements, betrayals, joys, and failures. Everyone, no matter how rich, how poor, how old or how young, everyone has a story. It may be long or short, told or unheard, it is a story; it is their story.
I have heard the details of some of these stories, but only chapters or moments. A person’s life can never be fully known except for the knowledge of the Creator. We are not even aware of all the details of our own saga. Our story impacts those around us and they see behind us.
Two Olympic gold medalists have shared bits of their story with me; they tell of intensity of training and being a little different. My step-sisters have spoken of the events of their children; they have joys and struggles which most parents know. I was privileged to the discussion of two bed bound patients in elder care, one African-American and the other Native-American, on which people had suffered the greatest at the hand of the white man. A military officer has acknowledged in my presence decisions which ended the lives of his men through the tears in his eyes.
I have observed many moments, and you have too. I saw my uncle Ron learning to walk, he learned to walk several times as an adult, once after an injury and again after both knees were replaced. I proudly watched my son beaming as the youngest bicycle rider to complete a 160-mile bicycle ride and as he received his Master of Science at Aggieland. I was there to witness a mother when she first learned that the covered body in the car bent against a utility pole was her daughter. I have experienced many pieces of other people’s stories.
One of my greatest lessons in empathy was from a man, Larry S., who was facing a tough time in his marriage. His his wife had, two years before, been in an automobile accident leaving her with the capacity of a child. I expressed that I did not know how to relate to his experience. He provided me with this, “We can always relate to another person. You too have a worst thing that has ever happened to you; we all have. Nothing else is needed; it is the worst thing that has ever happened.”
Tell me, do you see the passages of history in the wrinkles of the old woman sitting in a wheelchair? What is the last paragraph in the mean eyes of the bully; is this a reaction to an unresolved episode? What of the mug shot on the nightly news crime report, is it anything more than a sound bite of a life? What prompts the smiling movie star, is it the joys of success or a hidden tale of guilt? Could it be that you are witnessing a moment and not the whole account? Is there “more?”
Stephen R. Covey, in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” writes of a space between stimulus and response. It is here, he says, we can take time to think. What might we think? Maybe we could think about the person in front of us? What has the day brought them as input to their story? How has that affected them? And yesterday?
What is your “worst thing?” What is your best experience? Have you ever laughed, spilt, lied, smiled, tripped, or cried? What then is your favorite, scariest, or funniest thing to have ever happened to you?
I believe we are all created in one image, a common likeness. If this is true, then we should look to see this family resemblance in each face. We should know that we can relate, if we try.
- The Listening Ear (lifecoachbydesign.wordpress.com)