I have no idea what you are going through.
It’s really how I feel most of the time.
Life is happening all around us, and we are all going through so many different things that it would be impossible for me to understand precisely what it is that you are passing through. I can’t do the proverbial walk in your shoes.
But while I have no idea what you are going through that doesn’t mean I don’t see you, it doesn’t mean I don’t feel things similar to what you do.
Because even though I can never know your journey, I know my own, and in some way it will parallel yours, in some way it will look just similar enough that maybe you and I can understand each other.
And if we can understand each other we can change the world.
When I was 17 a friend of mine lost her sister in a car accident, and I looked at that tragedy as an outsider and watched as so many people gathered around my friend to do what they could to help her mourn.
We sat with her, we sang with her, but none of us knew what she was going through.
At the time I thought to myself, “I don’t know how she is even getting up in the morning, if I lost my little brother I don’t think I could even handle it.”
As many do when someone is experiencing a tragedy I placed myself in her situation, and I found it so hard to even fathom that I gave up trying to understand what it feels like.
As humans sometimes we do that, when we can’t grasp the depth of the suffering or joy of our fellow people we tend to give up, because immersing ourselves in that kind of empathy is hard, it’s emotionally exhausting, and honestly we tend to find our ability to respond lacking.
So we fall back on social patterns we have seen, we say trite things such as “everything happens for a reason.”
We say those things until they happen to us.
Just one year later I found myself walking in my friend’s shoes as I stood by the side of my little brother’s grave wondering what came next. Wondering what tomorrow would look like, or the next day.
But I learned one thing. I learned that when I gave up trying to see myself in her shoes it wasn’t because it was too painful to imagine, it was because at the end of the day I knew that whatever happens in life we have decisions to make, and we are never going to be prepared for those decisions.
And in most cases we choose between two things.
…or carry on.
In my case I can’t say I chose to carry on immediately, and I gave up plenty of times, but I discovered that each day I had to make that decision, I had to choose what I was going to think. And if I could get a handle on my thoughts then I could put one foot in front of the other. If I could get a handle on my thoughts I could show up for other people.
And doing so has served me, so while I can never know what you are going through I can know how people feel, because I have felt. And that makes all the difference.
As people let’s do more to see the world not just through the lens of our own experience but through the lens of everyone’s experience.
If we can do that…
…everything will change.