She keeps going after the guys that you know will hurt her in the end. She gets called all sorts of names in your social circles because of this. Why does she keep making these decisions? Doesn’t she know that everyone talks about her like that? You would never act that way. How could she act that way?
And then somehow you find out that she grew up without a father. She grew not having anyone in her life to tell her certain things that you are supposed to be told by father, about boys and friends and valuing oneself. This information changes everything. Of course she’s doing the things she’s doing. She’s looking for something. Someone to value her. Cherish her. Father her in some ways. This changes everything.
Airplanes. Tight spaces. Lots of people. Long hours. People are expected to respect others and their personal space, even if there is hardly any available. And you’re sitting in your seat with your headphones on watching another Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks film because they are just so darn good together, and you say to yourself, “You’ve Got Mail! is just too good to not watch again!” But there’s this man behind you who will not talk with his inside voice. It’s as if he feels the need to tell absolutely everyone on the plane about how much he won in Vegas and how what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, or something like that. His voice keeps getting louder and louder. You can’t believe it. No one talks this loud. Ever. Who does he think he is talking like that?
Everyone is getting agitated. You can see people glaring at him. One guy looks like he’s about to get up and sack the guy from across the plane. The tension is palpable. But then you see the person sitting next to Mr. Loudy Face who is taking the brunt of his personality, and you see compassion in her eyes. You see grace. Eventually you see her give him his medication for something. It could be anything. Some chemical imbalance. Doesn’t matter. It’s not his fault. And this changes everything.
He’s 16. Driving a BMW. Has everything. Looks. Nice house. Popularity. Tons of friends. And he knows it. He’s so arrogant that you don’t want to be in the same room with him. It’s so easy to feel jealous or angry and look at him with judgment. But you know that his parents give him everything and do little real parenting, and this changes your perception. He’s an upper-class American. He’s at a huge disadvantage in some ways. How hard is it for someone of privilege to value others more than themselves? And in this you find compassion, but you don’t know why. He doesn’t deserve your compassion … but for some reason it’s there.
She’s driving so slowly. Why is she driving so slowly? Doesn’t she know there are tons of cars backed up behind her? People are trying to pass her, but can’t. Every once in a while someone will pass, and they’ll drive by her at an unnecessary speed, as if to make a point. To say something. You are in my way. People are riding her bumper. Revving their engines. Honking. But still, she drives at the same pace. When you finally pass her you look over and get a good profile view of her. Just a teenager. Staring blankly ahead, as if she has no idea that there are any other people in the world.
And as life would have it, you see her the next day at the coffee shop you frequent. She’s crying. You don’t know why. You can’t hear, but you know it’s bad. There are people sitting with her. All around her. She is devastated. And honestly, you know that you don’t need to know why. Maybe it’s a death. Disease. Doesn’t matter. You can see that whatever it is, it has caused her a world of hurt. And you find yourself thinking, If whatever it is that happened to her were to happen to me, I probably wouldn’t be in a hurry to get anywhere either.
I think there’s a reason why Jesus said, “Don’t judge, or you’ll be judged. Forgive, and you’ll be forgiven.” It’s terribly easy for me to judge people, especially those that I don’t know. Most of it probably comes out of pride or insecurities.
He’s going too slow. She’s so loud. They are in everyone’s way. She’s rich, and she knows it. If he would just have some self respect. Why does she dress like that? He’s always talking.
But everyone has a story. Everyone has a past. Everybody has been shaped by something. One parent. No parents. Economic situation. Rape. Culture. Orphaned. Pain. Struggle. Lack of pain and struggle. Death. Divorce. Privilege. Popularity. People are shaped by situations and the people that surround them.
Everyone has a story.
And when you know someone’s story, it changes everything, doesn’t it? Your friends who act certain ways, ways which would annoy you if they were a stranger, are given grace because you know them. You understand them. He acts that way because of this, and she does those things because of that. You understand. Everyone who knows them understands.
It’s the strangers, though …
When we come to the realization that everyone has a story, it changes how we treat people. When you see a man on a plane being abnormally loud, you know that he might be that way because of something in his past, and that thing most likely isn’t his fault. Or maybe it is. Either way, there’s a story, and because there’s a story, there is grace.
And if I went through every day with this mentality, would it change me? Would I act differently? Would people perceive me to be someone new? Someone different?
And what if an entire community embraced this idea?
I think it might change the world.