Couple number one arrived at the support group meeting, looking the same as always – a happy couple without a care in the world. But the truth is that he has Parkinson’s disease, and it took them an hour to get out of the door of their house because he didn’t take his pills, he fell coming out of the bathroom, he wanted to know exactly how long they would be gone in case he had “bathroom issues”, and they couldn’t find his cane. It was a typical morning.
Couple number two sat waiting for their doctor, and as he entered the little room he said, “Well, you’re looking better than ever! You’re making great progress. That medication change must be working.” Little did he know that she had refused to eat breakfast, struggled to get dressed that morning, had not brushed her teeth even after standing at the sink for nearly 10 minutes, and had hidden her morning pills somewhere. Her Alzheimer’s was getting worse, but it didn’t show as the doctor viewed her.
Our third case is a single woman with a condition that is not easily visible and not easily diagnosed, yet it causes multiple problems in her life – chronic fatigue syndrome. To her book club she seems perfectly normal. And as she walks into the room and takes her place at the conference table for their latest book discussion, she appears to be healthy to her friends. But the rest of the story is that she barely made it out of bed this morning. Not just this morning, but many mornings. She struggled to even put her feet on the floor. Her hairbrush seemed so heavy in her hand, and each step she took trying to get ready, was painful and slow.
While these are fictitious people, each scenario reminds us that what we see in people is not the whole story. Sometimes we forget that it takes a Herculean effort for many to get ready to attend an event or even to get out of bed.
In October of 2019 I wrote a post called “The Tip of the Iceberg” in which I talked about how there is more to every disease than first appears. And that is so true of each condition or disease. There are more symptoms connected with each condition than the casual observer ever knows.
This is also true about each person and their lives. There is more to everyone we meet than face value. We see them for a few minutes, for a few hours, but that is usually after the difficult part of their day. We see only the tip of their iceberg. For many, the little time WITH friends, is hardly worth the effort it takes to get there.
So, as we meet people in person (which is limited during COVID), let’s remember the effort it took them to get out of bed, to get ready, and to leave the house, being very thankful that they took the effort.
In a broader sense, this is true of everyone we encounter, whether friend or stranger. We don’t know “the rest of the story” of their day or even their life. So, let’s give grace when things aren’t exactly right, or when they are less than cordial to us. We don’t know what lies beneath the surface. We don’t know the rest of THEIR story.