Lately I have been surrounded on all sides with people who are going through their own secret sorrows.
People who look fine and dandy on the outside. If you didn't know any better, you would think that the world is in the palm of their hands. Yet inside they are fighting with all their might to keep that smile in place to mask the heartbreak going on.
All this worry and sorrow going on around me has made me realize more than ever how much we don't know about even good friends. There is so much we don't see from our vantage point from the tip of the iceberg. It has reminded me to be more gentle and non-judgmental than ever before.
In wishing I had a magic wand to fix some of the tough stuff going on for my friends I was reminded of the awesome message connected to this link someone forwarded me a while ago.
I loved it. It talks about how sometimes it would be nice if we all wore signs around our necks about the tough stuff we are facing so we could be reminded to be gentle with one another. I was so taken by how much those thoughts prompted me to be aware of what others may be going through, especially if they are being nasty or selfish or unfeeling.
There was a day shortly after I read that post that I wished I had my own "sign" around my neck: "Please be gentle with me. I desperately need sleep and I'm trying with all my might to hold it together enough to balance some things out."
It was a day when I was trying to get the last minute things done before I left town: babysitter lists, schedule written out, carpools fixed, etc.
Dave had been out of town (which of course results in no sleep because I have no will power) and I was trying to single-handedly get everyone where they needed to be. I had two different deadlines for articles I had to write and I was behind on figuring out the outline for what my mom and I wanted to say at Time Out for Women in two days.
I was extra behind on everything because I had spent the entire afternoon before with the Young Women and that morning "shadowing" Elle at the junior high for "shadow a student day" (one of my most favorite days of all the year). The sad thing is that I had to talk Elle into letting me come in the first place.
Is that sad or what?I told her I promised to be good and not wear a crazy outfit or yell out in class (yeah, like I'd do that), so she consented to let her poor mother tag along. But I had to spend half my time "shadowing" her secretly texting our whole ward (church congregation) to try to find enough drivers to help get all the Young Women to the lake for our annual lake trip that afternoon (I had mistakenly thought we'd be turning people away rather than trying to recruit them). I was drowning in a sea of "things to be done" for those in my stewardship when my own family needed me even more.
I was trying to hold it together.
I packed all the kids to and from Elle's volleyball game (she did great BTW, more on that later).
On the way home I realized I had no purse. Max was sure it was at the volleyball game so we raced back to see if we might be able to find it before it was stolen or locked up...irretrievable until well after my early flight the next morning when I would need it.
As I sat in my car at a stoplight imagining what I could say to sweet-talk them into letting me board a plane with no driver's license I was too immersed in my own worry to notice a car was trying to get over into my lane from the turning lane. When the driver finally caught my attention she gave me the meanest look in all the land. (I think it's interesting how sometimes a simple look, if it's mean enough, can make you want to just curl up in the corner and cry).
At first I was mad right back. I longed to have a sign to tell her to "Be Nice! I'm having a rough week!" But then I realized my sign wasn't really what mattered. I needed to be reminded that I should think about what her sign would say if she had one around her neck. Maybe she was under some serious pressure at work. Maybe her marriage was falling apart. Maybe someone died. Or maybe she was just having a rough day.
I'll never know.
But whatever it was, I just love that little reminder to give people the benefit of the doubt.
People all around us are going through their own secret struggles we may never see because they are deeply embedded in their troubled hearts.
And we just need to love them unconditionally.