One thing I love about my work as a Realtor and as a Coach is that I get to hear other people’s stories. It’s something I value about attending church, as well. Meeting people and hearing their stories enriches my life and gives my own experiences perspective and teaches me good lessons.
Not long ago, an elderly woman I often sit near at church caught my hand and said, “Pray for me. I have problems. Things are not always as they appear.” She endeared herself to me that day, just telling me that she has a story, even if I haven’t heard it all yet. Everybody has a story.
Thinking today of the stories others have shared with me over the years, I realize that taking the time to care about others’ stories has changed my life. Hearing others’ struggles with infertility made me a more caring mother, seeing my children as a blessing others have been denied. Knowing that others have been in abusive or sterile marriages makes me deeply grateful for a husband who has always come home and has been respectful and who challenges my thinking. Hearing others’ complain about trivial annoyances that developed into a life style of never being satisfied has made me want to be grateful.
The best part of being entrusted with others’ stories is basically a wonderful way to have perspective. No matter who I am or what I am going through, I am not alone on this planet and there are others who have been through similar wonderful and/or challenging experiences.
There are two thoughts I use to keep my own life in perspective:
- No matter what I am facing, there are others around me, very near, who are facing worse.
- No matter what I am facing, I have the opportunity to face it with grace and truth and to grow from it.
Listening to stories of what someone has made it through is inspiring. I know successful, caring people who grew up in homes with plenty of money and little overt love and other successful, caring people who grew up with lots of love and lacking in some of the comforts of life. I am aware of people who have recently lost a spouse, lost a sibling, had a baby, found a mate, landed a dream job, got laid off, and are newly retired. It is a given that we will go through some difficult circumstances….and then will have great boons of blessing. It is part of our own story.
I have noticed a man at the church we attend and have wondered at his story. Casually observing his bearing and relationships, I wondered what his story might be. I had no idea of how it would impact me once I was privileged enough to hear it. As it turns out, this man, stately, handsome and gentle, was falsely accused and convicted of a crime he did not commit when he was 22 years old. He spent 32 years in prison….some on death row. His story, which he shares with words and his own works of art, of how he became free and, remarkably, not bitter is gripping. His story made me weep, gave me hope, and deepened my faith.
Everybody has a story.
Hearing another’s story gives them value. It is one of the kindest, truest, least expensive ways I know to communicate love. Taking the time to listen, to hear, to value someone’s story can be life changing.