I believe everyone has a story to tell.
Most people heavily base their overall opinion of someone on a first impression. This reaction might be formed because of appearance, reputation, or apparent social standing, none of which address a personal or non-visible characteristic. Life is far too short to make judgments about people with no basis for such assumptions. Something can be learned from each individual encountered; every person possesses a piece of knowledge or experience yet to be heard. I believe everyone has their story, one that cannot be uncovered without careful excavation.
Living in such a privileged society, it becomes easy to assume that everyone lives in luxury, with opportunity delivered on a polished silver platter. Yet, appearances can be deceiving, and talking to people often reveals a stark contrast or unexpected twist to premature beliefs. One example of such a case my mother relayed to me after chatting with some deceivingly typical high maintenance-type moms presumed by my mother and I to be air headed and essentially responsibility free. One of the women, the one whom I had labeled as the most brand-name, gently lamented on her daily struggles with caring for her Alzheimer’s-stricken father. It was shockingly unforeseen to hear such an unpretentious account of hardship from one who I had written off as hollow and overly affected.
Too often human relations are crippled by such unnecessary judgments, when in fact part of the marvel of interacting with people is learning from and listening to what they say. One cannot know the answers to withheld questions without asking, just as one cannot know what occurs behind the closed doors of his neighbors white-picket fenced, red brick house. Everyone has their own internal battles, no matter how fiercely they might try to conceal them. The best actors in the world surround us, masking painful secrets as they persist with their daily lives. Such a censored relationship with those around us efficiently creates a society of actors, all itching to return to the private safety of a car or home where such exhausting disguises can be shed. Human pretences are enacted in order to spare the possessor any unnecessary prodding of sore spots, like covering a wound in order to protect it from the harsh realities of life.
Cloaking such secrets, people effectively withhold the most insightful and endearing acuities they possess. To keep such secrets private is a shame. An entirely fresh light can be shed upon one with a gem of a story or edifying piece of wisdom. To unveil such perception in others, whose presence we habitually take advantage of, requires nothing but a bit of time to communicate with them.
Everyone has something to offer the world. Everyone presents a different angle of the same picture, a different view of life. I believe that by keying into the acumen of seemingly pegged individuals, we can all gain a little insight for ourselves. Only by looking past the cover can one read the story.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.