"I can't stand working with her. She's horrible!" I confided to a coworker.
That's when my coworker told me that this manager I didn't like was dying of terminal cancer. A fact that very few of my fellow employees were aware of.
No family, a woman not yet into her twilight years, a difficult job. Dying.
I think back on that from time to time. So often I have trouble considering the lives of others. I am focused on my own story - where I'm going, what I'm doing, what my next adventure is going to be. I forget that there are people all around me.
It comes as a surprise to me when a friend is sick, someone dies, innocent people are killed, or a divorce occurs. It makes me reel. It feels like a shock wave has gone through leaving everything I thought I knew in disarray. And really? That is nothing compared to how they are feeling.
Often those things that are hardest for us are the things that we keep so closely guarded. They make us feel vulnerable. We hide them from the rest of the world and suffer in silence while the rest of our friends and family live their lives unaware of our pain or our sorrow.
That's how I have lived in my own hardest moments.
When I didn't believe in God anymore.
When I struggled with the idea that I might never have another baby.
I kept these things hidden, behind protective walls. I didn't want my life to appear anything other than happy, perfect, polished.
And the thing is, you never know.
When they have been diagnosed with cancer.
When they've caught someone they love in a lie.
When they have just gotten fired.
When someone has just had a miscarriage.
When someone has found out their spouse wants to leave them.
When they have experienced the death of a parent.
When they have experienced the death of a child.
It isn't our job to be clairvoyant. We cannot know these things without being told. We can however, be understanding, compassionate, and loving regardless of how someone treats us. We can consider that there is always an underlying story. Our words... our actions, they can hurt, or they can heal. Which would we choose?
We live alongside these people every day. In traffic, at the store, at our jobs, at church, in our neighborhoods.
When they cut me off in traffic? When they glower at me? When I hear them shout at their children? When they keep to themselves? When they don't show up to an event? When they cancel on me?
I often forget. I more often think of how other people's actions are affecting me. I more often turn to judgement, rather than understanding.
It leaves me wondering, what if today I chose differently. What if today I chose to look past the surface?
"Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." Philippians 2:2-4