Five minutes earlier the police officer I was riding with had gotten a domestic disturbance call. He pulled his car in front of the house. Another officer arrived moments later. They knocked on the door.
I was standing behind them.
(For almost five years, I rode with area police officers one night each week. Generally, I rode for about four hours, sometimes with officers on the evening shift and sometimes with officers working the midnight shift. I was one of three volunteer chaplains in our police department.)
It was about 12:30 a.m. A child opened the door and the officers and I went into the house. The husband who had been fighting with his wife had left. In the house was his wife, holding a towel to her bloody head and four children scurrying throughout the house. The officers looked through the house and stepped into the bedroom where there was blood on the bed and floor.
Meanwhile, the television blared. The EMTs came into the house and began to work with this woman.
I tried to stay out of the way and talked with a couple of the children. Then I saw the stack of school books on top of a dresser. It was now almost 1 a.m. The school bus would be coming in a matter of hours and these children had not even gone to bed yet.
Finally, the officer I was with had all the information he needed for his report.
These children went to the same elementary school where Charlotte was teaching. I tried to imagine these four children at school later that morning. A teacher would be at the board talking about a math problem or a science project. How did these children manage to keep from falling asleep at their desks after such an exhausting night.
Yet, who would look at them and give any thought about what they had been through just to get to school that day.
This is a reality that I want to remember: You never know what someone has gone through.
Suppose you interact with five people today. What have they gone through just to get to today?
- Perhaps one person is deeply concerned about a rebellious married child. She is awake all hours of the night, praying and thinking about this.
- Perhaps one person finds it hard to trust people. Again and again she has been hurt, by men in particular.
- Perhaps one person seems to lack energy. The medication he is taking leaves him without much energy for the afternoon.
- Perhaps one person is having serious financial problems. He has been trying to support his aging mother and this is really hitting his family hard financially.
- Perhaps one person seems really preoccupied at times. He wonders if he will survive the next cut at work.
Are these excuses? Not at all.
However, knowing the story of a person can sometimes prevent inaccurate assumptions and overreacting. Maybe knowing someone’s story can create some compassion.
Do you recall being amazed by the resilience of a person in your life? How did the knowledge of that person’s story impact the way you viewed her?