Ironically, I saved this title as a draft last week, but it really didn’t have any recent, significant meaning for me until Wednesday night. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: Whatever it is that I think I know about people from surface-level interactions… it is probably wrong. And if it is not wrong, it definitely is not the whole story.
Everyone has a story. Everyone has life experiences that have shaped the person that they are today. Some people have had traumatic events – near death experiences or losing a close friend. Some people have made huge mistakes that they have had to learn from. Some people have just been a victim of chance. Others have experienced huge success in a short period of time, found god in a cool way, or lived in 15 different places in their life as a part of a traveling family. Or maybe they’ve lived a pretty normal life and don’t feel like they’ve had any extraordinary or intense experiences.
No matter what, each of us has events in our life that are important to us. There are people in our life that we care deeply about. There are places on the earth that bring back fond memories. There is a song, or sound, or show, or sight that always brings a smile to our face. We are people, and we are not defined by what we look like or first impressions. We define ourselves by what we feel is important.
So what Barrett?
So what you say? Take a minute to think about the people in your life. I’ll do the same. How many do you truly know on a deep and personal level? How many of your friends could you describe based on experiences that define them… according to them, not to you? There are some people in my life that I feel tied to for life. I know them. They know me. But, there are others that I don’t know so well. Whose story I haven’t heard. I need to make the effort to connect with them. That is one of my goals for this very academic last year of college that I am experiencing – connecting with people on that personal level. That level which means you will stay connected with another individual far into the future.
I encourage you to do the same. Learn someone’s story today – or tomorrow. Ask questions without pushing too hard. Care. And, most importantly, give others the chance to know you on a deep level. Be vulnerable. Tell your story. Don’t let others define you on their terms.
I fully believe the life experiences of others will never cease to surprise us if we will take the time to hear the story. It is a lesson that I have learned time and again – one that I have found easy to forget and push aside. And this past week was a great reminder that I shouldn’t allow myself to forget. I shouldn’t allow myself to shy away from sharing my story. I shouldn’t allow myself to shy away from listening to the stories of others. I need to continue to work to genuinely care about those around me and where they come from. And so I will.