Each has his own story
Updated: May 19, 2020
Do you ever stop to think about all the thousands of stories you intersect every day?
I often tend to think the world revolves around me. My dreams, hopes, problems, and achievements are very front and center in my life. A creative exercise that I really enjoy is thinking about all of the many and deep stories of the people I barely know.
I’ll give a few examples.
Eric - the bar champion
As I write this, in the middle of the night last night, someone I once knew was brought to my memory. It took me a while to remember his name, but I’m sure it was Eric. I met him in the fall of 2006. I have only seen him a few days of my life, but when my sister, mom, and I first worked at the Renaissance Festival, he was our first entertainment partner, before we started working with the man who accompanied us for years.
I recall maybe two days working with Eric, but I remember that he was a champion on bar, though my sister and I did mostly floor tumbling. I barely remember what he looks like, but I remember a black hat, blond hair, and a friend for a few weeks.
What’s amazing to think about is this individual that I knew for a very short time has an entire life of his own. I’m sure he worked hard for many years to become so good on the bars. He had his own hopes, dreams, accomplishments, ambitions, and his own future that I was nearly completely unaware of. And I’m sure by now, he has had many experiences, completely separate from my world. He has no doubt experienced joy, heartbreak, desperation, anger, love, and many more things throughout his life that I don’t know about. Wherever he is, I hope he is doing well.
One of my most clear memories of the first day of Kindergarten was the smile on Amber’s face. It was so warm and inviting. She sat across from me and I always appreciated her for that smile on the first day of school. I might have seen her in the hallways in first and second grade, but I haven’t seen her since. Again, she was present during a very small sliver of my life, and yet, she has her own vast story of experiences. Who knows where she is now? She could be working, married, traveling, learning, or countless options. But she too, I’m sure, has experienced tragedy, trials, bonding, kindness, and happiness in that time. I hope her story is going well for her.
I had a friend from my International Gold Latin dance class, back when I was a ballroom dancer in undergrad. He and I practiced together a few times and we were friends. He was a senior, so he graduated after the semester I knew him in. I didn't think much about him afterwards, but when I was in grad school, I looked him up on social media and found that he had died later that same year from some sort of chronic illness.
My heart sank at that news. Here was someone, not far from my own age, that had been dead for almost two years and I was unaware of it. Even while I knew him, I didn't know he was struggling with an illness. Maybe he knew he didn't have a long life ahead of him and maybe he didn't. He must have worried and struggled deeply during the time he was my friend, but I didn't know about it. Even still, he had a lifetime of experience that I knew very little of.
A family that lost a child
More recently, I met a father and son, who I spent about an hour and a half with and haven’t seen them since. During the conversation, the boy said he wanted to study a rare disease when he grew up. Eventually in the conversation, I realized that they had recently lost a younger child around 10 months old to this condition.
I held back tears as the realization struck me. These three people were experiencing such a tragedy and heartbreak, but somehow I was completely unaware of the pain and sorrow. I mean, obviously I wouldn’t have been aware, but sometimes you wonder how the sun keeps shining in those conditions.
I reflected on this many times. This little boy I was talking to had experienced many things at his young age. No wonder he was so mature! He has dealt with the excitement of having a new baby brother, the worries of seeing the brother decline, the utter sorrow of losing that brother, and the determination to prevent that suffering for other people. This boy has a huge story ahead of him as well: one that I will probably be unaware of. It’s amazing what happens independently of our worlds and the depth of emotion and experience we are unaware of.
Shifting to a more positive topic
Not only is there great pain and suffering that we are unaware of, but there is much joy and happiness. I meet a couple that looks so in love and I wonder what their story might be. If someone has an inside joke I don't understand, it's fun to imagine where it might have evolved from. There is so much love, hope, peace, and joy to be found in the stories of others.
A dear friend of mine had a very difficult time, but she was always happy and full of faith. She loves others intensely and finds something to be thankful for in every aspect of life. I know her pretty well, but I don't know her story well enough to know how she built that amazing attitude. Her story has shaped her into an amazing person, even though she has experienced hardships I can't even imagine.
It’s incredible how many lives are going on around us and how little we know about it. Even people we are close to have dreams, struggles, and ambitions we don’t know about. And to all of these people, we are just intersections to their stories. Our hopes and dreams don’t exist in their worlds and we are just pieces in the timeline.
I joke a lot about times I intersect the lives of others. “I’ll bet someone is having an interesting dinner conversation tonight,” I’ll say. I’m sure I’ve been brought up at many dinner tables for many different reasons throughout my lifetime: sometimes because I did something stupid, sometimes because I did something crazy, and hopefully sometimes because I did something right.
Appreciation for God’s vast attention
Isn’t it amazing that despite all of the billions of people who have their complicated stories around the world, God is aware of all of them? Sometimes I love to think about how someone is getting married today, and that positive emotion is being felt somewhere. At the same time, someone died today, and that sorrow is being felt. Someone accomplished a lifelong dream today, giving me more hope that I can too. Someone found love, someone had a healthy baby, someone saved a life, someone helped another, someone found Christ, and someone is full of joy for a wonderful life. It’s wonderful to think of all the good that happens in the world, in other stories.
It is amazing and wonderful that what all of us have in common is we can all pray to our loving Father in Heaven. He knows us. Each person I see, I can think about how they have their own desires, struggles, hopes, dreams, problems, and prayers. Though I can’t do much about that, I can pray that the One who knows all of that can aid them in their lives.
I want you to take a moment and think of a random person who has intersected your life - you can look out the window at someone walking down the street, if you’d like. I want you to imagine how vast this person’s story might be. You don’t have to make one up, but you can imagine the many, common human experiences they may have had and wonder at the uncommon experiences they have had. If you’re the praying type, maybe say a prayer for that person and wish them well. While all of these people are intersecting your story, remember that you’re intersecting their stories - whether you’re a chapter or a footnote, be a good one!