“How are you doing, sir?” I called out to the man about 20 paces ahead of me in the parking lot.
He paused and when I caught up with him, he said, “After all that in there, I felt like my stuff was nothing.”
“All that in there” referred to what we both had just heard at the conclusion of our parish council meeting after I asked attendees if they had any special intentions for which they would like prayers. Among the needs shared by the 10 people there were for the man whose daughter in-law committed suicide, the parishioner with recently discovered advanced stomach cancer and several others with major challenges in their lives.
“Well, what is your stuff?” I inquired, only to find out about his three skin cancers that had been removed which required some reconstruction on parts of both the man’s ears. “They think they got it all and that it is contained,” he said. “You’ll be on the prayer list,” I replied.
That started a conversation about how little people know about others’ lives. We know not the troubles, concerns, fears, or frustrations that burden, distract, discourage, depress or diminish others, including friends, family, neighbors, and strangers. We just don’t know.
It is not that we should know, either. Private matters are private matters. We should not presume to know anyone’s situation simply by observation though. Rarely is the impression we get by someone’s appearance, actions or attitudes the correct one. The things we don’t realize about people are often more important in our interactions with others than the things we do. While we don’t need to know, we can assume with 100% accuracy that whoever we encounter is dealing with more, coping with more, fretting about more, distracted by more…than we can ever know. Keep that in mind.