I spent a powerful evening with some friends this week. We were collaborating on a service project and working really hard. But we passed the time by sharing stories from our lives. We talked about the joys and the sorrows, the ups and the downs. It made the time go quickly, and I feel like I know them so much better than I did before.
I care about them. I want good things for them. I hope that was true before I learned more of their stories, but I have to believe that those feelings are deeper now.
In my life there have been moments of great joy and moments of incredible pain. I have achieved and succeeded and failed miserably. I have celebrated miracles and mourned losses. So have you.
We all have a story.
It has been my experience that once you know someone’s story, it becomes almost impossible not to treat them more compassionately. It is one of the fastest paths to kindness. A co-worker may annoy you with their peculiar habits or their negative comments, but when you learn even some of their story, you are more understanding. It is easier to show someone grace in their worst moments when you know some of the story of their life.
Listen to people’s stories. Ask them about their childhood. Open the door to a conversation. Then be present and learn about who they are and what they have been through. It will change how you treat them.
And be willing to tell your story.
Everyone’s life can be hard sometimes. Illness, injury, and disappointment are all a part of it. They define us as much as the good times. We need to tell our stories, all of our stories.
I am not suggesting we wallow in despair. In fact, I am suggesting quite the opposite. Positivity is the trait I value most. There is nothing more inspiring than hearing someone who you know to be optimistic and positive talk of a challenge or a disappointment or a truly devastating loss. They model that we will all experience those things and can still be happy. How we tell our stories says a great deal about who we are.
Tell your happy stories. Tell your sad stories. Tell the stories that make you look good. Tell the stories that make you look ridiculous. We all have them.
I do not want to over speak, but our stories have the power to change our world. Countries, cultures, religions have stories too. When we seek to know them, we are more understanding. We treat each other better.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Never underestimate the power of learning even part of someone’s story.