Friday, April 19, 2013

Everyone Has a Back Story

Are you a people watcher?  I am.  It's something I have always done from the time I was very little.  My mom used to tell me not to stare at people because it was rude, but I just couldn't help myself.  Now that I am an adult, (so to speak :-) ) and I realize that people get really weirded out if you stare at them (because it's creepy), I try to people watch a bit more discreetly.

Right now, I am sitting in a coffee shop and I am people watching.  There is middle-aged guy in the chair next to me, working diligently on his laptop.  He has on earphones and his music is quite loud. He seems to be very tense as he clears his throat and exhales loudly. Maybe he is finishing up his last work task for the week before he heads into a much needed break this weekend.

The African American lady at the table behind him, is alone.  She looks concerned about something. She is texting.  She pauses, furrows her brow, gets up and walks out the door, texting again. She is oblivious as a group of teen girls from the neighborhood high school brush past her.  They bring the volume in the shop up a few notches with their chatter and laughter.  For a few minutes, I can't hear the mid-aged man's music.

A young mom walks in pushing a stroller, she is blinking and squinting a lot as she looks at the menu on the wall.  Are her eyes tired from lack of sleep?  I know how those nights full of feedings and little sleep can make you feel the next day.

Then there's the UPS man, all smiles as he delivers a package, quickly chats with barista and another customer,  and receives a complementary coffee.  He chuckles as he walks out the door.  Someone is having a nice day!

See what I mean?  I am a people watcher and I can't help it.

This week I have been thinking a lot about people and what makes them tick.  As I look around this coffee shop, I realize that everyone has a story.  There are some people here that may be shouldering some serious burdens.  Maybe they are ill or have a family member who is.  Maybe they are unemployed and discouraged as they continue to send out resumes with no luck.  Someone in here is celebrating a life milestone.  Did they just get married?  Have they overcome an addiction? Someone is frustrated, another is satisfied.  That person looks nervous, this one at peace. Someone over there just told a funny joke or something, because that guy is cracking up.  His laughter is contagious.

Looking at people's faces and observing their actions, makes me realize that everyone has something going on behind the scenes, behind the public face there is a personal story, a back story.

Have you heard the words "back story" a lot this past week, friends?  I sure have.  The media is using it  around every corner of every commentary.  Back story. It's fitting really. Humanity has experienced another unthinkable this week.  Hell on earth in Boston, Texas.  So many stories, lives converging in the trauma immediate.  Total strangers' stories meshing forever.  On a sidewalk in Boston, a severely injured woman receives saving breath from one she may never meet, but who has given her a chance at more life.  In Texas, a firefighter's passion for serving his community, modeled by his father before him, put to the ultimate test. Now stories and back stories colliding, forever connected.  Life on life.

People watching keeps me present with humanity. It makes me ever aware that this life that we live is relational.  It's meant to be that way.  As I look at others, I see beyond myself and I realize that standing before me or sitting next to me there is another living, breathing soul with a story. It makes me pause solid and think about what others around me are going through.  That random rude individual in the grocery store is someone's someone who may have just been thrown a curve ball in this game we like to call life. Everyone has a back story.

I saw a video this week and I want to share it with you. It touched my heart and reminded me to be careful with others, to have empathy.  I hope that it touches you too.

Thank you for reading.



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