What do you see when you look around? When you see other people what do you see, what do you judge, what do you notice? What do you see when you look into the eyes of the guy behind the register or the girl taking your order? Do you see a smile, do you rate their hairstyle, are you curious about their shoes? What do you see? What do you notice?
Now stop…breathe…and take a moment to notice more, to see beyond what they are showing you. Do you see their heart, do you feel their soul, would you believe they had a story, could you imagine that their life is filled with emotions that would break your heart to hear it? Would you believe it was true that there is a story to them that leads up to the judgments you are making?
We all have a story. We are all walking book covers that few people will ever read, that few people will ever open, or that we will only allow a few people to ever read. We will be shaped by the chapters filling us, but the beauty, joy, and pain that has lead up to us only few people will ever know.
We only show our front covers when we walk around each day. The person in front of you shows you a cover, and how neat is it that we can change our cover depending on the chapter we are in that day in our life. The image we show every day is as easy to change as it is to update our profile picture on the internet. We can make ourselves look like whatever we want to show that day. Every day is a new page of a big story being written on our souls. Do you see it now? Do you see the books walking all around you?
If I sat down with you, if you would let me into your life, I would hear a story, a story of love, of hope, of diminished dreams, lost goals, accomplished trophies, and happy memories. I would hear stories of lessons learned, lessons you don’t want to learn again. I would hear joys that would make me smile hearing you tell them and tears that would flow from my eyes along with yours to hear the moments of sadness and pain you have had to overcome.
I would hear those beautiful and vulnerable experiences from you, and if you sat and let me tell mine you would hear a similar story but with different experiences. I would tell you all the things that I smile about, and if I had the courage to speak up I would tell you the things that hide behind my smile.
If I told my story you would learn that the tough walls I put up aren’t there because I am tough, but because I am scared. That letting you in is scary, that friendships are scary, and that my heart sometimes feels like it is strung together by a little string that could break at any moment.
If we talked together, really talked, you would hear a hope that doesn’t make sense and a heart of forgiveness that puts me at risk every day.
We are walking stories, souls in motion, searching for love, and hurt by the distorted versions of it.
Our world tends to be more about the judgment of black or white, good or right, this or that, righteous or unrighteous, poor or rich, cool or uncool, weak or strong, and love or hate. We judge based off of extremes so quickly that we forget that LOVE and COMPASSION for another person comes from understanding the unseen gray areas between one extreme and the other. Our stories make up the middle, but we judge before we hear, before we listen, or before we even ask.
The division of extremes sets us apart, but it is our stories that bring us together. Our stories are the gray area no one takes the time to recognize. Our emotions are the shared experiences that are similar but different than the moments of the person who lives across the street.
Here’s my experience…I have been a closed book. I have lived with a cover that has a lock only few people can get a limited key to unlock. I have tried it that way. I have been the waitress smiling when I took your order going through a difficult time in my life, I have been behind the register and made the customer “first” when my life desperately wanted someone to do that for me. It didn’t work. I thought it would, I really did. I really did feel safer alone, but it didn’t work.
What is working? What is influencing my life in a way I never understood, that I never thought was possible, that is scary but life-changing in the same moment is surrounding myself with people and families that see me as more than a smile, that look at me and see a beating heart, that care for me enough to want to be invited in, and connecting to other storybooks as we write the next chapters of our life with the pages open instead of locked shut.
This is what it means to live life in CIRCLES instead of ROWS. When we share our storybooks, our pages are holding hands instead of shoulder to shoulder on the shelf of the library with dust in the corners waiting to be picked off the top shelf.
I have found more life in opening my book for the people that care to read it than I have from being closed off in the corner. My discovery has led me to three questions that I want to bring into the way I want to do life now from the lessons I am taking with me into tomorrow. I want to “people watch” differently, and I want to “people engage” differently. To help me remember it, I put it into the categories of ME, WE, and THEM to remind me to never forget I have a story (ME), there is power in sharing it (WE), and love in asking someone about theirs (THEM).
ME: I HAVE A STORY.
- What’s your story?
- I have spent more of my life denying I had a story than actually embracing that I had one. What would it look like for you to take a bold step in embracing your story?
WE: THERE IS POWER IN SHARING IT.
- Is there anyone in your life you feel safe enough to share it with?
- If not, could you at least acknowledge the fear that keeps you from expressing your authentic self to another beating heart?
- My fear comes from letting people in and then watching them go away. I came up with this distorted belief that if I don’t let anyone in, I don’t have to worry about how hard it is when they leave. That wasn’t working, but I gotta be honest that for a long, long time in my life I thought it was working out great.
THEM: SHOW LOVE BY ASKING SOMEONE ABOUT THEIR STORY.
- Who is in your life that you have laughed with, loved with, and prayed with, but never asked them to tell their story?
- There are walking books all around your life that you talk with everyday, text every other day, and “like” all their posts on social media that you have never stopped and asked to hear their story, asked to hear their heart, or had a conversation with to say out loud through an intentional encounter that “I CARE ABOUT YOU”. That line screams from our hearts, desperate for a reminder, and a beautiful gift you can offer the people around you.
You are story, you have a story. A story full of purpose, full of meaning, full of experiences that are beautiful, painful, joyful, and still unfolding. Never forget that you are more than what today brings, more than what yesterday whispers in your ear, and that tomorrow hasn’t been written yet. There is hope for the pages to come, and there is something amazing that happens when people get to witness the pages about to be written with you.
The next time you find yourself lost into people watching, see the story, recognize the heart behind the person instead of jumping to the judgment quick to surface. Try on a new pair of glasses and view the people around you with a new lens.
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