Everybody has a story. This morning I stopped in two coffee shops over a three hour period, one for caffeine and one to give back the coffee I had consumed at the first shop; read-bathroom break. Regardless, in both places, the idle conversation of the patrons caught my attention as one described a mystical, medical anomaly that her son had experienced, and then a young, healthy looking man had a brief discussion about his leukemia treatments. There was a table filled with 60-something women who were discussing challenges that they were experiencing, and three other guys in the corner were lamenting their difficult jobs.
The conversations weren’t all medical, but they certainly were living-related, and it reminded me of a motivational speaker that I had heard several years ago who described the two sides of The Great Barrier Reef. The side that was pummeled daily by the ocean. He explained that that was where all the living things were thriving, and the other side which was calm, the Bayside, had no life. It takes the stress of life to give us life.
Just the day before, one of my friends and former employees was discussing his absolute complete fear of retirement, and I can certainly relate to that because I have no interest in sitting idly by watching the sunset every time until the very last time.
The night before that I was seated randomly at a table with a grandmotherly looking, white haired woman who looked to be in her very late sixties or early seventies. After a glass or two of red wine, I boldly asked her about her background. At that point she said in a very soft spoken voice that she was a government bureaucrat.
Quite frankly, when she described the agency for which she worked, I had visualized that it was filled with older ladies who looked like her, but wore red high top tennis shoes and couldn’t for the life of them do anything but check off boxes positively or negatively as they approved or disapproved of various applications. As I forcefully delved inquisitively into her life, my eyes and ears were opened to someone with a real story.
This little old grandmother had been a nurse, but she didn’t stop there. She went to graduate school and then volunteered to serve for three years during the Vietnam war assisting with the locals. Of course she was able to speak the language and still does as she seeks out the wonderful Vietnamese restaurants in The District of Columbia.
When she came back to the States, she went to Johns Hopkins University where she got her PhD, and she has been involved with public health ever since that time. This lady was hardly the red, high-topped tennis shoed clerk that I had anticipated. She had an amazing, giving background that was indicative of many of the bureaucrats that I’ve met over the years; super smart public servants who want to make their country a better place.
Bottom line, though, everybody has a story.
A friend of mine wrote a speech for me once called Bubblewrap. The primary content of the speech was that we should look at people as precious things often covered in protective, cushioned bubble wrap, and until they are taken carefully out of their bubble wrap, we really have no idea what their story is. We really don’t know what their contribution has been to society, what their talent is, what their motivations are, what they love, what makes them tick, or what has hurt them. It’s one of those, don’t judge a book lines, but more importantly, it’s a everybody brings something to the table things.
We all have a story. I’m sure you do, too.