One of the things I love most about traveling is seeing new people and either guessing at or asking them for their story.
Everyone has a story – just most of the time we are too preoccupied with our own navel-gazing to discover what those stories are.
Every person in the picture above has a story.
How did the guard come to be in the Horse Guards? How long has he been a guard? Surprisingly to me, BOTH of the guards on duty that morning were black – how often does that happen? Did he feel that it was harder for him to get there because he was black? Is he married? Does he have children? What are his plans and goals? Has he served in Iraq or Afghanistan?
Then there’s the tourists. Each and every one has a story of where they’re from, why they are there, how they came to get there – and where they are going.
On my return flight from England to California, I sat next to a guy who is an assistant coach for a University Basketball team. His story? He had been on a tour of Europe scouting for players to recruit. He was then going to spend the rest of July scouting in the US and other countries. I learned some of his story of how he came to get recruited to coach at that school and what some of his future aspirations are. Fascinating. I’m on vacation, he’s scouting for players – yet we’re both on the same flight.
There were also a dozen or so teenagers from Germany – who were heading to New Zealand to learn English. Yes, they transited through both England and America to get to New Zealand to learn English – why?. I would love to have learned their stories. Why go to New Zealand? Where exactly were they from? How did they raise the money for the trip? How were they feeling about it?
After we landed, I met a family who had been on our flight. They were from the Netherlands and were traveling to America for “three or four weeks”. He worked for Shell and got up to 50 days of paid vacation a year. FIFTY! That’s incredible. I learned some great stuff about them but our conversation was cut short by circumstances.
Learning people’s stories when I am traveling is a great reminder to me that EVERYONE has a story. You do, I do, the people in your street do, the people in your church do.
Everyone could write their own story, their biography – and every one would be different.
I believe that we need to learn to start listening to people’s stories. Even the people you don’t like to much are truly fascinating when you take the time to learn what has brought them to be in the same as you, at the same time. Knowing how someone has come to where they are can help us to see how unique, special and important they are.
Knowing people’s stories help us to stop seeing them as ‘the homeless guy’, ‘the tech guru’, ‘the crazy ADD lady’, ‘the pastor’, ‘the pastor’s wife’, ‘the drug-user next door’, ‘the gang member’ or whatever it is that we label them as. When we can see past the label, we can really see them as people just like us. People who carry pain and burdens around with them. People who need love and friendship. People who need help. People who have gifts and talents that are going unused who would love to have an outlet for their abilities. People who have achieved great success and people who have suffered great failure. People who feel trapped. People who can help us feel less trapped. People who are special to, and loved by, God.
I would encourage you to do two things:
- Start learning the stories of the people you come in contact with and try to empathise with them about how their story has affected them. Listen, not just superficially but really listen to what they are saying. See them as unique, special people not just whatever you label them as.
- Share your story. It could be in the comments on this post, on your blog or facebook, with your friends, at a church meeting, over lunch with someone who’s interested or in any one of a hundred different ways.
When we open up and share, walls are brought down, friendships made and hurts healed.
You’ll be amazed at the variety of true-life stories there are all around you.