I believe that other people have lives, too. They are all going somewhere, and doing something; perhaps they’re thinking of someone. There are so many people that touch my life every day that it sometimes overwhelms me. I’ll squat low in my car in some traffic while nobody moves outside their cars, except that inside the privacy of their vehicles they conduct their lives. I think about how that man in the white Hummer is going somewhere, and the lady with curly hair in her hybrid looking at him in disgust is going somewhere else, and that boy in the ’97 Honda appears so discombobulated, yet he’s got to be going somewhere also.
My favorite misconception is when students decline to believe that their teachers have lives other than spinning gracefully with a thick, red marker around grading papers, writing notes, and declaring an essay. If an “F” is distributed or some late work isn’t accepted, it’s obviously because Mrs. Maxwell hates you with the fiery passion of a thousand white-hot suns. In fact, she loiters in Starbucks when she leaves school just so she can have a quiet environment to plot your imminent demise and predestined misery. It’s not heliocentric, it’s not even geocentric, it’s egocentric.
Other people are just as animate as you and I are. They breathe and function and think and care, just like you do. Not about the same things and people, but their cells squirm around in their bodies just like yours. Everyone that you see—everyone that touches you in some way—and all the other people that don’t, focus on running their lives the same way you focus on performing your tasks. So when you interact with these people, remember that, and treat them humanely.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.