I have always prided myself for my sense of reality. For seeing things how they are.
But I recently realized I had been lying to myself for quite some time.
I was talking with my mother who is a teacher of the English language to over 50 elementary students in our home district. Most of her students are refugees from Somalia.
She had conferences not long ago and had the opportunity to speak with several of the parents. She commented that she was blown away by the aging of the young Somalian women, one in particular. She knew that the woman had to be young enough to have a 1st grader, but she looked as though she had already lived a long hard life.
In the same conversation she noted how cute and trendy my latest outfit was. I had spent nearly my entire life not caring or understanding fashion, and once I found a sliver of the formula I was slightly hooked into looking ‘in’ (albeit at thrift store clearance prices).
Then it hit me.
My life is a lie.
Here this women who has lived a life full of who even knows what kind of loss and anguish shows her experience on her sleeve.
Then here I am, prancing around in my skinny jeans, leather boots and cute scarf (I was wearing more, I promise) acting as though I’ve not a care in the world.
Not everyone has the luxury of hiding their past or current struggles.
We all have a past. We all have struggles.
All of us.
No one exempt.
But not everyone has the luxury of pretending as though they didn’t or don’t. Yet here I’ve been traipsing through life as though they haven’t a care in the world.
I was having/watching this discussion last week on a ‘social network’ about how we don’t know a persons story. We can’t judge them for their situation without knowing them. Heck, we shouldn’t judge them even when we do know them!
Sometimes these people show their life in the clothes that they wear, the car that they drive or the place that they call home (or not). But still other times there are more permanent reminders of that past.
Perhaps a mouth full of teeth hanging on by a thread is the reminder for a girl who was addicted to drugs while be sexually trafficked on your nearby street corner. (Perhaps like this girl)
Or maybe you’ve lost job after job not by your doing, but simply as a victim of a collapsing economy. Then while trying to find a new job you find yourself unable to regain entry into the employed world because of over experience and a lengthening time of unemployment. (Your story may be similar to this gentleman)
Perhaps you were living a healthy life only to find you now suffer from a debilitating disorder leaving you unable to work. With mounting medical bills and continuing costs of living you see no way to make it each month. (These 10+ million people share your experience)
We can all do things to help this situation.
1. We can be real with each other.
Many of us don’t have a clue that those around us are struggling. Sharing this with those around you (not lamenting, but in a way to encourage others) can help make the problem real for others in our society, putting a face on the problem they only hear in the news.
2. We can stop shaming those around us – If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
I think that age old saying is worth repeating to many adults. While you may admit that not EVERYONE receiving government benefits is a complete loser, you are still holding on to the position that most are and you are only separating yourself more from the people who find themselves in that current situation.
3. Have compassion for those around you.
Yes, that person you saw use an EBT card is now smoking outside the store. But how do you know that they aren’t smoking a cigarette in order to abstain from hard drugs? Or that they could be using medical marijuana (in the states that are progressive enough to allow it) for the awful pain they are in? You don’t. So remove the judgement from your brain, retrain yourself, wish them a good day and move on.
So, onto the part where I leave myself utterly vulnerable.
- My husband was unemployed so long he exhausted benefits. Twice.
- We are on medical assistance. We haven’t always been, but we are now.
- Our home mortgage is through a government program to help lower income people attain affordable mortgages.
- We are currently receiving food stamps. Yep. You read that right. Food Stamps. FOOD STAMPS.
I could explain the reasons for all of these things. I could defend our family to the fullest extent, but I won’t.
Either you see people how Jesus does, or you don’t. I don’t even think you need to be a Christian for that, heck most Christians are guilty of the opposite!
I just hope, that you are able to start, be it ever so slightly to see that the cover doesn’t always match the book. Sure my cover can be quite cute and charming, but the pages on the inside are filled with trials.
Don’t judge the person who is obviously showing their struggles on the outside, while there are plenty of people right next to you experiencing those same things that you wouldn’t dare make those comments to.
Whoops, just got a little soap boxy.
How About You?
Do you know the story are someone whose outside doesn’t reflect the life they’ve lived?
What about the opposite? Someone who is judged for the way their appearance represents the life they’ve lived?
Much love! (seriously, I love you all!)