The past two days have allowed me to intersect with a number of people I’d never met, and the experience has been uplifting. It’s always good to be reminded that people are people–they wake up in the same way I do, and they return home at the end of the day just like I do.
I think sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our own stories that we forget everyone else is walking around with a story, too.
Some stories captivate us easily and quickly. Some get our attention for negative reasons, and others get our negative attention for no good reason at all. It doesn’t take much these days to wander around social media a bit and discover just how rampantly an epidemic of sour attitudes is spread, or how easily people are offended by wholeheartedly lovely things.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that the prolific presence of hate or vitriol on the internet comes from somewhere deep–each of these people weighing in have a story, too. Perhaps it doesn’t look like your story or mine, which is why we can’t understand the outrage or nastiness as we read it on the screen. It isn’t pleasant, but it’s also not personal…not to you, or me or most anyone rifling through a comment feed.
It’s easy to forget that hurting words come from a hurting place. I’m sure many among the vast global community that is the internet would disagree, but I believe it to be true. And I’m saying it here because I think it’s important to recognize that we have a choice when we engage with others in cyber space. I’ll risk saying that we even have a responsibility.
Let’s not pretend for one second that we have someone pegged on the basis of what they’ve posted online. Facebook is the perfect example. In the same way that it’s hard to know how someone is really doing on the basis of a few FB posts, it’s really difficult to understand someone else’s pain when they post a less-than-savory comment (or comments) on a feed after a story posted online. Maybe it’s a little bit easier to spew anger and hurt at random strangers than it is to recognize a deep seated craving for attention, empathy, love or help.
What I’m saying is this: while we can find community online, and while it’s become a great avenue for the widespread sharing of news–both uplifting and devastating, nothing can replace the understanding we gain from removing our devices and pretenses, and connecting intentionally with a stranger or friend.
I’ve experienced this first hand today. I would love to address every joyful and condemning comment with time and grace, but I’m not sure that would entirely honor the efforts I’m making in the holiday season to simplify, to share peace, or to offer a safe place for anyone to come and just find grace.
I had the privilege of sharing a story more publicly this afternoon–one that impacted me and my family in a humbling and remarkable way. And I hope, as it reaches whomever it’s meant to reach, that it’s met with grace on the other side.
We can’t possibly know what’s happening in someone’s world unless we actually take the time to find out. What we drive, the color of our skin, how we dress…these all might be indicators of who we are and how we live our lives, but they aren’t everything.
I have a story. You have a story. “They” have a story. As we continue to usher in this season of celebrating the greatest story ever told, can we please not forget this?
with love and a deeper desire than ever before to meet people where they are…