Do you ever look at people around you, strangers or acquaintances, and wonder about their history? What experiences have led them to where they are, made them who they are?
That guy you work with who is so funny, always cracking jokes. He never takes anything seriously. Do you ever wonder if he had a horrible childhood? Maybe he learned young that it’s better to laugh than to cry.
That sister who never accepts callings and is so aloof. She refuses to let visiting teachers or home teachers come by her house. She seems so stuck up. But maybe there’s more to what meets the eye. Maybe what you don’t know is she was involved in a car accident that killed her young son, and has never been able to forgive herself.
That older single woman who is so gifted. She sings like an angel. So comfortable performing and sharing her talents in front of people. Too bad she’s so overweight. But maybe she’s had to overcome more than you could possibly know…maybe she was sexually abused as a child.
That old homeless guy you see so often on your way to work. Always the same corner. Same vacant stare, same filthy clothes and bare feet. He’s obviously mentally ill. But maybe at one time he had a family. Maybe he has three sons that haven’t seen him for 10 years. That don’t know where he is. That worry about him everyday. That don’t know how to answer their own children when they ask when will they get to see grandpa again.
Do you ever wonder what your future holds? Do you ever look around at acquaintances and strangers and wonder where their lives will take them?
My daughter turns 16 next month. It’s that age where she’s looking ahead and wondering. Who will she marry? How many kids will she have? What career will she have? Where will she live?
I remember thinking about those same things when I was her age. I didn’t know I’d marry the boy who sat next to me in my high school psych class. I didn’t know we’d plan on having four kids, and end up with three. I didn’t know I’d become diabetic. I didn’t know he’d become an engineer and design snowboards. I didn’t know I’d make my living on something called the Internet. I didn’t know anything, really. But do we ever?
I wonder about this woman I know. She’s an alcholic. She’s had three children by three different men. One she gave up for adoption as a teenager. She gave her ex-husband custody of her youngest, in spite of a restraining order once she had against him. Her sister has taken in her other child, a 14 year old boy who has seen more heartache and trouble than any child ever should.
I wonder, what will she do with her life now that she’s no longer tied down by her children? Will she drink herself into oblivion? Will she go out partying every night, and turn to harder and harder drugs? She was doing that even when she had her children.
She has a lot of painful memories to try to bury. She was abused as a child. She witnessed her neighbor and friend shoot someone and then turn the gun on himself and shoot himself in the head—and she held him in her arms as he died. She’s been brutally raped.
She’s been literally kicked in the face—by her husband, when she was crying at his feet on the living room floor. I stood the next day in the very spot. I quickly stepped away in horror when I realized the dark spot I was standing on was a blood stain.
What will she do with the rest of her life? Will she continue to make poor choices and never get it together? Will she continue to punish herself?
What would I do in her place?
To be honest, I don’t think I could be as strong as she has been. I think if I’d been through what she’s been through, I wouldn’t have survived it. I think I’d be dead.
But you never really know how strong you are until you’re forced to be. And you never know what sort of hardship the people around you have faced. Or what they might be called on to face.
Fortunately, we also don’t know what joy might await us. That guy with the rough childhood who was always cracking jokes? He has a beautiful family of his own and is making sure his own kids have a secure, wonderful childhood. That woman who couldn’t forgive herself must have, because she had another baby. And she started coming out to church activities. That older single woman with so many gifts to share married a widower with ten children, and her dream she thought would never be fulfilled, of having a large number of children, has come true.
Remember that the worth of souls is great in the eyes of God. And it should be in ours, too.