Words of Wellness

March 01, 2009 | The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner

The Rest of the Story

The other day I was in a long line at a coffee shop and the line was not moving.† I am not the most patient person in the world and so I was getting mildly irritated.† I could not see the person who was at the front of the line, but I quickly assumed they must be ordering some kind of triple shot banana cream grande latte, and probably several other similar fancy drinks for their friends back at the office.† Since all I wanted was a simple cup of coffee I was really feeling the injustice of my having to wait the extra time it was taking.† Mind you, all of this was simply the picture I was creating in my head.† †

†††† Growing more impatient, I finally stepped out of line to see what was taking so long.† Imagine the shame I felt when I saw that the person at the front of the line was a man in a dirty, tattered coat desperately searching his pockets for a few last pennies to try to cover the cost of the small cup of coffee he had ordered.† It was a cold day, and this man, who appeared to be homeless, was not just trying to get a hot cup of coffee, but to also find a warm place to sit for a while.† Without the purchased coffee, he would not be welcome to stay and warm up.† The man received his cup of coffee, either because the person behind him in line, or the young woman behind the counter, helped him out.† The line moved quickly after that and I left being reminded again of one of the most important lessons in life:† be so ever careful about judging a person or a situation when you simply do not know the whole story.

†††† The legendary news and radio personality Paul Harvey passed away this past Saturday at the age of 90.† He was a person who had a passion for getting the whole story.† In fact each week he entertained and inspired us by talking about "the rest of the story."† In this regular feature of his he would talk about a person or an event that we knew something about, and then he would surprise us with some little known fact or twist that enlightened us about "the rest of the story."† Once we knew the rest of the story, the person or the situation made sense to us in a whole new way.

†††† And so it is with the people in our lives.† We all have people in our lives that we find "trying."† We label them as difficult and usually find ourselves annoyed and irritated by them.†† This person might be a child at our son or daughter's school who's misbehavior is frustrating to all.† She might be a colleague at work who wants to talk incessantly to everyone, or a neighbor who never speaks to us and rarely ever leaves his house.† It could be our brother-in-law who we decided a long time ago was not someone we liked.† Maybe it is someone we know from church who is an overwhelmed mother and yells at her kids at church each week.† Believe it or not, this person might even be our spouse or child, who has grown more "difficult" to love recently. At our best, we probably try to disguise the opinions we have of these people, but at some level they most likely sense our distance and disgust.

†††† In honor of Paul Harvey, let us all be reminded that until we know "the rest of the story" we are in no position to judge another (and even then, we still need to be careful).† I was literally in no position to judge the person in the front of the line at the coffee shop.† Once I moved and looked from a different angle it was clear that I was judging the person from an extremely limited story, one that was in fact created in my impatient mind.

†††† So here is our homework assignment for the week.† Make an effort to get to know "the rest of the story" about a "trying" person in your life.† Step out of the story that you have already created about them in your mind and look at them from a different angle.† Make an effort to connect with them to find out more about what makes them "tick."† Put down your critic and be curious about who they are and how they came to be the person they are now. †

†††† If we are willing to do this, I am pretty sure that more than one of us will develop a new compassion and empathy for the people that we find most difficult in our lives.† Be patient, this could take time, but the emotional and spiritual growth that it will create in you will be well worth it.† And think how good you will feel when you have greater compassion for someone because, "and now you know....the rest of the story."

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