Everyone is going through something. Everyone has some hardship, obstacle, or worry to deal with. Some people are going through less than others, but nobody has the perfect life. As we realize this, we should also realize the importance of being there for one another and the power of encouragement and support.
There was a girl in my class last semester. She was always smiling, happy, and active in class discussions. One night, we coincidentally ran into each other and started talking. It was our first personal conversation, and we learned a lot about each other. What surprised me the most, however, was finding out what she dealt with on a daily basis. She lived with three other girls, all of whom were close friends. So close, in fact, that they tried to make this girl’s life miserable so she would move out. They wanted the apartment to themselves. They ridiculed, tormented, and pestered this girl every single day. Sometimes, she didn’t even feel safe (at her own apartment, nonetheless). During dinner, she ate alone in her room, and wouldn’t come out until absolutely necessary. Trust me when I say that the full version of this story has haunting details and troubling examples of animosity.
I asked if I could give her a hug. Inside, I wished I had known sooner. If I hadn’t coincidentally run into her, I wouldn’t have even known about this. I wonder, how many people knew? Given how she acted in public, probably not many. Yet some people who have similar struggles take it out on the world around them, and might be labelled as mean, bitter, or pessimistic as a result. Maybe they don’t deserve that label, though. Maybe there is a deeper issue. Maybe they act that way for a reason. Well, it’s our job to find out. Before we judge someone, we must know exactly what they’re dealing with.
We will never know everything that someone is facing. But what we can do is try to find out as much as possible and try to understand them. Understand how they feel, understand their situation, and understand how hard it is. At that point, instead of judging others, we could offer them our help, support, and encouragement.
This girl’s story and our coincidental meeting made me wonder: how many more stories like this are out there? How many people deal with unimaginable things every day? How many people go to bed crying, hurt, upset, angry, stressed, or worried because of something they are going through? A lot, I’m sure. Sadly, we can’t be there for everyone; there are too many people and there are too many problems. But what we can do is make sure that we give people the benefit of the doubt. We can seek to understand them before we judge them. We can offer help instead of criticism. We can offer kindness and sympathy instead of bitterness and indifference. We can take an interest in their life, their problems, and their struggles.
If we do this, not only will we have enriching interactions, but we will cultivate an environment of encouragement and support. We will break through the superficial “I’m good, how are you” conversations and have deeper communication in which we can really learn about people. From there, strong relationships will form, the relationships we’ll need when we go through difficult times, struggles, and hardships.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~Leo Buscaglia
Photo by ernohannink