I have recently grown more convinced that everyone is carrying a burden. Larger than we can see, heavier than we can imagine.
We move among each other- award-winning actors and actresses, earning more awards than Hollywood has time to create award shows for.
We are not fake, per se, we are surviving. We are civil. We are functioning members of a society that does not expect more than a sentence to the question, "How are you?"
Among our closest we may say more. Or sometimes, even less. But our burdens are real and our weariness is real, and sometimes, in moments we don't plan or prepare for, we find ourselves getting real with the unlikeliest people in the unlikeliest places.
And that's why my job is studded with encounters that leave me a little breathless at the raw humanity that sits right beneath each of our carefully constructed images.
I work at a very busy public library.
And when I'm on the floor, there are days when I can tell that I am meant to simply be an ear.
That someone just needs somebody to listen. With an open heart, with no answers or advice, with no judgment, with no fear. Whatever you say, for these next moments, I'll get in your boat and listen as you describe what it's like to bail like crazy, paddle like mad, face every kind of storm and trouble and feel like you are making absolutely no headway at all.
Drug and alcohol addiction.
Grave and terrible illness.
Death of your loved ones.
Your baby having babies.
It's a crowded, perilous boat.
He came back. One such paddler. A young man making his way out of a terrible place. I admired his courage. I admired the open, frank way he could talk about his life without self-pity, but some real regret.
"I found a job! A good job! I had to come back and tell you. You showed me how to get on the computer and look, and I put out hundreds of applications and I finally got one and it is awesome!"
Someone saw the spark in him I had so admired. His dogged persistence. His teachable attitude.
I cried a little.
I'm so, so proud of you! And so honored that you let me be part of your journey.
I cannot even begin to comprehend a mile in your shoes, but thank you for setting your burden down for a moment at my reference perch and sharing your humanity with me.
I shoulder my own load with a little more hope today.