Amidst that place of dreams coming true along the paths of perfection, nothing was going to erase the smile on my little girl’s face. Blessed with so much, including the ability to live beyond my means, it seemed impossible for me to do anything but laugh during that adventurous week. But, somewhere along the way, when we were closer to leaving than we were to arriving, I started to cry. My daughter would be leaving me and joining her mother, and another passage of time would mark the reality that because of our failures as parents, because of my failures as a father, parenting time arrangements would need to be honored. So, as I did many times before, and have done many times since, I cried.
We desire simplicity. Sure, we love a challenge, something that pushes us to our limits, but only if it eventually comes to an end. Some challenges, most challenges – the ones that really matter – don’t really come to an end. There are moments of calm, maybe even long passages of peace, but inevitably there is always a return. It’s that return we need to stay focused on, not because we shouldn’t be positive; rather, because we should be understanding. Always.
Do you have any idea, have you truly taken the time to think through, are you willing to suspend assumptions long enough, will you commit to recognizing that it’s not a simple story? It never is. It’s not meant to be. It needs you not for your judgment or even for your passive interest, but for your engagement.
The misbehaviors and missing assignments (especially the ones that happen over and over and over again) have a story behind them that doesn’t begin or end with the words “don’t care,” or “lazy.” The teacher who is acting rude, or breaking down, or demonstrating an unwillingness to engage has a story behind him or her that will give you some insight, but only if you take the time to engage and understand. The decision from above you that seems to not honor you or devastate your professional life includes a story that doesn’t deserve your condemnation. The lawbreakers, the caretakers, the perfectionists and free spirits, the ones who sit back and the ones who do it all, the gays, the straights, the pious and perverted, the privileged, the powerless, and the ones with skin and hair so different from yours, the weird named and strange speaking, the religious fanatic, the atheist, the greedy and the poor, and all the people before and after and everywhere in between: They all have a story.
It’s not a simple story. It’s long, and full of words that you may not want to hear. It’s funny and sad and tragic and full of hope. It’s illustrated with blood, sweat, and tears. It will take you to places you may wish to avoid, depths and heights you may have never been, desire to return, or want to go. Firmly bound but with a tattered cover, the crisp but torn pages are waiting for you. Enter with an open mind and a willingness to learn. This isn’t your own story, but you just may find yourself in it if you pay close enough attention.