Let’s stop from our lives a moment, take a step back and sink ourselves into the people and the world around us.
Take a look at that 20 something man. He’s seated by the window on the 8.17am train to work. At least 6 foot tall, slim, dressed in a navy suit. He’s thumbing through the hundreds of photos on his iphone with his earphones plugged in. You can’t tell now but he broke up with his boyfriend of two years last night. He was cheated on. He’d rather not go to work today but wants to keep his mind busy.
Hop off the train and standing outside a busy cafe is a blonde 17 year-old girl. She’s in her torn denim shorts, black top, boots, wayfarers and headphones. She’s holding a cheap cigarette in one hand, takeaway latte in the other. At age eleven she taught herself French, Mandarin and Latin. Her parents make her attend an all girl Catholic school—apparently “religion will do her some good”. Today she’s wagging school to meet her boyfriend. But where is he?
There’s a woman who just entered the same cafe. Early 30s. Brunette, shoulder length bob, 5”8 and beautiful. She carries a Julia Roberts like grace. She’s in her usual black blouse and pencil skirt. But there’s something different about her. It’s not that she changed her coffee order from a cappuccino to a green tea, or that she tipped the barista who’s been hitting on her for who knows how long. It’s the new jewel on her ring finger. She’s excitedly on the phone to her best friend, telling her how a-mazing her fiancé’s proposal was. She can’t believe this is all really happening.
Fast forward the day a few hours.
A young girl and boy—brother and sister, are looking on outside from the front window of the house. Their small palms and warm breath are fogging up the inside of the window. Their mother is angered at her husband in question; she just threw an empty wine bottle at his car. The children are crying. Did they just see their father arrive from work, load the boot of his car, hesitate then drive off for good?
Down the street a teenage boy is nervously knocking on the door of a girl he really likes. They’re going on a date. His heart is racing and his hands are fiddly. But when she finally opens the door smiling, he relaxes. He smiles back at her. Things will be ok. He just needs to be himself. Of course he doesn’t know it now, but there’ll be more of that nervous butterfly feeling in years to come.
From a corner a dishevelled unshaven man weakly waves down the teenage couple for spare change. But they’re too caught up in each other to care about him. No-one would recognise that he was the CEO of his once large business, until he let his gambling addiction get the better of him. You can tell through his faded blue eyes that he’s close to giving up. His wife drew the line when he pawned his wedding ring. Now he sleeps on cold cardboard instead of a four poster bed with feather stuffed pillows.
A woman in her late twenties sympathises for him and tosses five dollars in his cap. She has a PhD in oncology. A year ago she started her own cancer research institution. But she deserves people who understand her. At 22 she was diagnosed with manic depression. Some people ask her why she didn’t just study her mental illness instead. But knowing too much about it will drive her insane. Sometimes her unexplainable mood swings keep her awake for days. When it’s really bad her suicidal tendencies can kick in. Today she’s feeling ‘normal’. Maybe it’s because she decided to reconsider her love-hate relationship with her medication.
In a restaurant across the street a man has just blown out the ‘85’ candle on his cake. He’s sharing dinner with his family. They’re flashing cameras in awkward positions and clinking glasses to celebrate. The happy wrinkles on this 85-year-old’s face tell the hundreds of stories he’s lived through.
But step further from what you see around you. Understand that you live in a shared world, with billions of people and billions of stories.
Are you open to making their stories a part of yours?
Or are you too busy writing yours to read others?