A dear friend of mine posted a photo of a fortune with the above quote on Facebook this morning. While I was already familiar with the quote, I appreciated seeing it again. “Yep, you just never know,” I thought to myself. “People may be crabby or hateful for a reason that I can’t see.”
And that’s always how I’ve viewed that quote: Be kind when encountering negative people because you can’t see what’s going on underneath. During a late morning lunch with my boys, however, I learned to look at that quote a lot differently.
At our favorite sandwich place, the late morning church crowd was there — mostly families — creating happy chaos. I snagged a table while the boys ordered. As I waited, I enjoyed watching the myriad of children, looking spiffy in their Sunday best. I especially admired one little girl’s absolutely gorgeous curls. When the boys brought our food over, I looked up and noticed a family claiming the table next to us. It took them a while to get their drinks, but one by one, everyone settled in. And each one of them was beautiful. The smaller boy and the dad sat down first. Blonde hair, blue eyes, both clearly had enjoyed the outdoors this summer. Then the bigger boy sat down. He looked just like his dad and brother. Then the mother sat down, as gorgeous as the rest of her family. My first thought was, “Hmm, two boys. I wonder if she wanted to have a girl?” Right on cue, the little girl with the curls sat down. Are you kidding me?!
As you may or may not know, I’ve raised my kids by myself for 99.9% of their lives. But I’ve never been one to suffer from “family envy.” Sometimes I feel sad that my children didn’t get to experience a two-parent family like I did, but it’s never been a source of bitterness or resentment. Frankly, I feel nothing but gratitude. We’ve been blessed beyond reason and my kids have never lacked for male role models. But I couldn’t help but marvel at this family and their seeming perfection.
Then I noticed the youngest son watching my boys. It was pretty evident that he was a little in awe of them — in the way that little kids look up to older kids. “Yes, they’re cool” I thought to myself. “But little boy, you have no idea how much they’ve endured and just how special they are.”
I stopped myself. The Facebook fortune. “Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
On the surface, it would seem my kids’ sailing is pretty darn smooth. They’re handsome, kind, smart, funny, and going to college on scholarships. But underneath, they’re each battling a nasty disease in which there is no cure and facing an uncertain future. So who am I to assume that this gorgeous family next to us isn’t experiencing some significant challenges of their own? Everyone has challenges and needs support.
I guess my takeaway from this morning is to never make assumptions. Whether it’s someone whose life is clearly not going well or someone who seems to have it all, there’s always more to the story — so just be kind, no matter what.