Who we are and what we carry within.

While in Maine, I always do my best to catch up on reality television that I don't normally watch due to a lack of cable and a desire to leave my couch. So while home and catching up, Erin and I watched some Long Island Medium. You've all seen this show, yes? It's hilarious and ridiculous, but I had this thought again and again as we watched episode after episode.

Each person is carrying around such great pain.

If you haven't watched the show, watch just one episode and listen to the stories. I'm not advocating for mediums and I'm not suggesting that I believe in this or that or what-have-you. I'm saying that that show reminds me to see others as humans.

The other night back in Chicago with some friends, I saw the movie Her. For those who haven't seen it, it crosses into awkward from time to time. But outside of the awkward, there's this powerful reminder of how we isolate ourselves from one another and how much pain we each carry.

Sometimes on the blog, I talk about this program I did a few years back called Mission Year. It's the reason I moved to Chicago. In Mission Year, we participated in a technology fast. For the whole year. No cell phones except on Mondays. No internet at home. No TV. Just you, me and the people we encountered at work, in our church and in our neighborhood. 

And when distractions are so limited, there's this wonderful freedom to get to know people. And to ask tough questions. And to share stories. And to be reminded that we each have a story and that I want to know your story and maybe you want to know mine.

During Mission Year, my roommates and I used to visit this woman down the street. She was in her 70s and she was fabulous. She'd invite us into her home and we'd spend hours there. Laughing and sharing and getting advice and forgetting about the world outside those walls.

The year after Mission Year, she passed away. We went to the funeral, the three of us roommates, and met her grown children for the first time. They told us how much those visits had meant to their mother and how much she'd enjoyed that time we'd spent together. And how glad they were that we had been there to keep her company when they couldn't. We hadn't meant anything profound by it. We simply enjoyed her company and her laughter and her incredible stories so we kept going over. We reassured her children that it was she who had done us the favor.

In class today, one of my adult students told us the story of how and why she came to the United States.  She was simply practicing answering the question "How long have you lived in the United States?" But this story just poured out of her and I was reminded how much life each of us carry within. And how sometimes that life is painful and beautiful and blessed all at once.

All of this is to say that I want to remember that we are all human. With deep, deep capacities for joys and pains and tragedies and awe.

And in a month, I want to remember that in the third week of January 2014, when I looked at people, I wondered who they were and what they carried within. If you notice I've forgotten to treat each person accordingly, kindly remind me, won't you?


  1. Oh yes. Thanks for that reminder of those special moments we shared with her. She was inspiring and fun!

  2. Emily, yes. It is such a struggle to grasp the humanness of the people around me. Every now and then, I have a moment of understanding and realize that the grumpy person across the counter might be going through something really difficult. I love the idea of wondering who someone is, and what he or she "carries within." And, I love you!


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