My favorite niece found this blog yesterday. She earned that title of ‘favorite niece’ because she spent time reading every single post right down to the Contact page after she made this discovery. She learned a thing or two about her ‘favorite aunt.’ Not sure if I earned that title, but I’ll go ahead and crown myself since the poor girl spent her weekend reading my entire blog! She’s counting down the days until she leaves for college, yet she took the time to read my words. That’s high praise!
Isn’t it fun to learn about those around you? I mean- you think you know people because of surface conversations or maybe the things that others say about them. Perhaps you even feel like you know them because of the moments that you’ve shared. But- there’s SO MUCH more to people. We’re only showing who we want the world to see in any given situation. We don’t always highlight our past- the beautiful or the ugly pieces. We often hold our dreams and desires close. There’s a charade happening with all of us. We all wear masks that are only removed when we feel safe.
As friends read my book, LIFEGUARD, many are surprised by my story. These are friends who know me well, yet they didn’t know all the layers of my personality. They are learning a few new details about me as they read, but- guess what? I’m still more than the slices that I included in the book. Aren’t we all?
I try to listen for those tidbits of intriguing info when people talk. I genuinely want to know about people. I want to hear their stories and learn what makes them tick. Their journeys can speak wisdom into my own journey.
I was thinking about some things I’ve learned about the people around me while my ‘favorite niece’ was reading my posts.
- My dad was a Ranger in the Army during World War II in France and Germany. He never spoke much about his time in the war, but he would answer more questions toward the end of his life. I once asked the most gentle man I knew about how he was able to shoot the enemy. He talked briefly about the whole “it was them or me” scenario, then he said something that surprised me. He said that he didn’t use a gun. I followed that with the naive question of what he used when he needed to kill the enemy, and he looked at his hands. My father looked at his hands. That said everything I needed to know.
- Many people know my mother as a local celebrity because she has been on the news for decades. Many people don’t know that my mom was a contracted dancer for 20th Century Fox back in the heydays of Hollywood, working alongside Marilyn Monroe and Donald O’Connor. An even bigger surprise is that homesickness brought her back to the midwest.
- I have friends who spent time behind bars for a variety of crimes that didn’t define their character or their worth.
- I know people who battled cancer and won. I knew people who battled cancer and lost. All of these people had fears and dreams outside of cancer.
- A former student moved to Australia on her own as a young adult. I was surprised by this move at the time, but she thrives there.
- My husband is one of the toughest people I know. Folks around here know him as a badass because of the speeds and distances he can run in his mid-fifties. They would be surprised to know how easily he passes out. Blood. Needles. Just hearing about someone’s trauma or what the dentist is going to do in his mouth. Yep- he is gone!
- Friends try to hide the fact that they smoke. That doesn’t work, by the way. Even with the best cover-up methods, there’s still that hint of a smoke smell. Own up- admit that it’s a vice and maybe even acknowledge that you struggle with it.
- A fellow teacher is also a pastor.
- A person that I would never have suspected had an extra-marital affair and would do it again.
- Someone has webbed feet.
- Many people have never been on a plane or seen a beach or a mountain.
- Students have never left the town where we live- not even once!
- Childhood friends might be surprised to learn that my brothers had to have rabies shots when we were kids- as did the rest of the children in our neighborhood. Well- everyone but me. I was the only kid who didn’t play with a stray kitten who was acting silly; thus I was the only kid who didn’t have to get rabies shots.
- I know a guy who shared that he went to 17 different high schools!
- A friend went to high school with Paul Rudd, and they’re still friends. I went to college with Brad Pitt and Sheryl Crow, but neither of them knows who I am.
- A little boy from a wealthy family had everything that money could buy. However, all he really wanted was for his parents to be present in his life.
- A student who had seen what the winds of a tornado did to the bodies of his aunt and uncle felt safer if he could just see a radar screen during a storm.
- A family spends a few nights every month at the Ronald McDonald House as a way to serve others.
- A friend moved to this country as a teenager without knowing the language or another living soul! His family allowed him to come for a better life.
- A popular high school student never let his friends know where he lived because of the extreme violence from his father toward his mother at his home.
- A family took in a teenager who posted about how hard it was to be the kid with no home. Not only did they move him into their house, they included him on their family vacation. This kid who previously had no home can now say he’s seen the ocean and been to Disney World!
- Someone arranged for a single mom to have a vehicle to drive to work so that she could provide for her children. That someone also made sure to remain anonymous.
Stories. Surprises. Some are heartbreaking. Some are legendary. Some are just plain funny! They all have relevance to our lives. They connect us. They strengthen our combined existence. Share them often. Share them without fear. Share them to anyone who will listen.
Your stories matter. Go ahead- surprise me!