Did you ever think about all the people we encounter in a lifetime? I was thinking this morning about the many people I know. I was also thinking about people I don’t know, but I see everyday or almost everyday at work. Then there are the people I see in the grocery store or library or bank or gym whom I don’t know at all and maybe only see once or twice in a lifetime. I am so curious about people and their lives. Sometimes I over-hear snatches of conversation and they make me wonder how people come to the conclusions they do.
In the store the other day I heard a mother and her teenage daughter discussing spring break. The mother apparently did not like it the kids were out of school for break starting on Friday, which happens to be Good Friday. She felt like the schools were taking a religious holiday and they should not. She carried on for a long ten minutes while we waited in line. Her daughter was just happy she didn't have school Friday and she kept saying she didn't care why. I wondered if her mother really felt so strongly about what seems a small matter to me, or if there were deeper issues going on and complaining about students not having school on Friday was an easier topic to attack. Who knows? But I got curious. I always do.
People are such a magnificent creation. I think it is easy to forget that because often we see the worst in others and don't look beyond that. There are people I deal with on a regular basis who are never clean. Ever. I see them out shopping or in other situations and they are always dirty, hair unkempt. They are magnificently created, but it sure doesn't look like it. I have to check myself when such thoughts creep in. It’s not my job to make snap judgments, dismissing those I feel are not clean enough or well-dressed enough for me. I don’t know what has happened in people’s lives, where they have been or what they have overcome or are currently struggling with. I don’t know, so how dare I judge? It sneaks up on me sometimes and I don’t like it. I am such a work in progress.
Mostly, though, I just think people are interesting. Nobody has lived your life or experienced your experiences. My mistakes are all my own and yours belong to you! I don’t know what it was like to sit in Miss Mumford’s (or whatever her name might be) sixth grade classroom in New York City in 1999. I grew up and went to school in California. It was pretty much always warm there. I remember the first snow day my kids ever experienced when we moved to Michigan. They were so excited and I was amazed at the idea of canceling school because of weather. The only disruption I ever had in my education when I was growing up was one early June when we had three half days in a row which were called because of the heat and the fact our building had no air conditioning - but those were early-release days, not full days completely free from school.
I admit there are times when I get tired of interacting with others. I am introverted by nature and need my time alone to re-energize and gain strength to face the world. But there are a lot of times when I look around at amazing and interesting faces as they pass me by and I wish I could sit down with them and get to know their unique stories. I have learned everyone has a story and usually when I ask, they love to share it. And I like to hear them because there is so much about this world I do not know and have not experienced.
One of the aspects of The Torch I am anticipating eagerly is knowing we have the potential to touch the lives of so many new people. I am excited to hear their stories and learn from their past experiences. I want to know about the people we help and the people who support us. Everyone’s life matters and is infinitely valuable. Every person I meet has a uniquely fascinating life story worthy to be shared and listened to.
Sometimes I worry we are becoming a society which moves so fast and plugs into our electronics so quickly we are missing out on the most fascinating, beautiful, expressive, interesting, entertaining, part of this world - sharing in the lives of other people! Let’s face it, your computer will never love you; your iPhone is merely a tool which can get broken, stolen, and lost; and your Kindle does not care how badly you might be hurting inside. It doesn't matter how much quality time you spend with any of your electronics; they cannot relate to you - they simply don’t care. But I do. Other people do - they have donated financial support to The Torch and soon we will be out reminding other people they matter very much.
Just like you. You matter very much. Has anybody told you “I love you today?”