(The following editorial was written after receiving the sad news of the deaths of Donald and Shirley Parkinson. While unitystories.com does not usually post editorials, this particular one, which ran in the September 22 issue of the Unity Wilkie Press-Herald, has prompted a number of favourable comments from readers, so we share it here.)
You just don’t know.
You don’t know what demons the man you meet on the street fights when he is all alone at night. You don’t know what sorrows the clerk at the store hides behind her smile. You don’t know about the ache in your neighbour’s heart. You don’t know about the memories that haunt a co-worker. You don’t know what wakes me up at 3 in the morning and keeps me from going back to sleep.
You just don’t know. And because you don’t know, isn’t it best just to be kind to everyone?
Maybe that person who didn’t yield the right of way this morning was pre-occupied because he or she got a phone call last night, saying Mom or Dad or Grandma had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Maybe that person didn’t get enough sleep because he or she was up late, worrying about the teenager who didn’t come home when expected. Maybe the significant other, at breakfast that morning, said, “I’m sorry but I really don’t love you anymore. One of us is going to have to move out.”
You don’t know.
Maybe that teenager tearing around town in the old car doesn’t want to go home because Mom and Dad are fighting. Maybe the “grumpy” old man down the street never responds to your “Hello” or “Good morning” because he’s deaf and doesn’t actually hear you call as you go by his yard on your morning walk. Maybe the lady who never stops talking, if you make the “mistake” of getting into a conversation with her, is scared spit-less of the loneliness that overwhelms her when it’s silent.
You don’t know.
Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, tells of being on the subway in New York. Everyone in the train is sitting quietly, some resting with their eyes closed, others reading a book or newspaper. At the next stop, a man gets on with some rather noisy children. The man sits, closes his eyes; meanwhile the children run wild. People are disturbed and upset.
You can imagine what you might have thought if you had been there. What’s the matter with him? Why doesn’t he do something? What a terrible father! Those children obviously have never had any discipline. What a bunch of spoiled brats! Where’s their mother? Hopefully he’s not the full-time parent since clearly he’s totally incompetent. Kids like that shouldn’t even be allowed on the subway.
Finally, Covey touches the man on the arm and suggests he control his children as they are disturbing a lot of people. The man turns and says, according to Covey, “Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”
Now, if you were there, what would you think? Knowing the story changes judgment, anger, irritation, annoyance to sympathy and compassion.
Don’t judge. Don’t condemn. You don’t know, so just be kind. Always.