People are incredible. Every single one of them. Did you know that?
I have had the privilege of copy editing the memoir-style collection of short stories for a woman who is nearing the end of her life over the past few months, and I have just finished the project. She has documented the stories of her family, from her romance story with her husband to the stories of their children, grandchildren, pets, aunts, and uncles. This author has a creative imagination and she has stylized several of the stories so that she tells the history from the perspectives of family cats and household items, but each of the dozens of stories contains a snapshot of her family’s history. When she passes away in the near future, her children and grandchildren will have a permanent record of every memory that otherwise would die with her. And after reading (and re-reading and marking up) each story, I have come to feel like these people, none of whom I have ever met, are my family. And I’ve also realized something else.
Each of these stories – from the death of her little brother to the wildfires that raged through California during her lifetime – contains a piece of her heart. I have never met this author, but I imagine that if I did, I would not know about most of these stories or people in her life. Even if I spent hours sitting and talking with her, I might only hear a few of her stories, while many more lie hidden underneath.
And she’s not the only one. In fact, she is only one. Any person in this world who has lived a full life could probably fill a book with memoirs about family, hurts, memories, lessons learned, and experiences. The person who checked out your groceries last weekend, the obscure great uncle on your mother’s side, the person who lives in the house down the street – each of these people probably has a heart filled with enough memories to fill a book. They probably could offer you wisdom on life that is deeply grounded in their own past, and maybe you’d be wise to heed it.
To provide another example, I have been dating my boyfriend James for over 8 months now. This past weekend, we drove three and a half hours to North Carolina to visit his parents, and he spent an hour and forty minutes telling me details about his life that I had never heard. He drove me around his hometown – small as it is – and relayed even more memories about his first job, his childhood home, and various places around the town. And the beautiful thing is that although I think I know him pretty well – better than most, in fact – I still haven’t heard everything about his childhood. And all of those stories are what have made him who he is today.
You just never know where someone has been in his lifetime. On the popular blog Humans of New York, you can scroll through photos of the average person walking down the road, but photojournalist Brandon Stanton makes it his job to stop and talk to them. He asks pointed questions to get profound answers. How many of us walk by these people and never know that they fought in the war, left their children in their home country until they can get settled in the States, or are flipping burgers after earning a postgraduate degree.
But you can find out. Instead of seeing a stranger, a public servant, or a nameless face when you encounter someone, you can understand how God sees him – as His incredibly created, unique, gifted child. Because that’s what He sees, and that’s what we could see if He gave us His eyes.