I saw an interview today with a man by the name of Steve Pemberton. He is currently the Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of Walgreens. Never heard of him before today.
Steve was born into poverty and then was passed from foster home to foster home to foster home, to families who only fostered for the money, and thus, suffering years of abuse at the hands of “parents” who claimed they wanted to take care of him. He said that most people just didn’t know what to do with a light-skinned African American boy with blue eyes.
As he noted, his saving grace and escape was that he absolutely loved to read. He always had a book with him and read a wide variety of them. He absolutely loved learning. One day, while he was in junior high, he learned the concept of “college.” The lady he was talking to told him this: “Imagine a place where you learn all day long and you never have to go home.” He thought, “I never have to come back here?” (Imagining the joy of not having to be in an unloving, unsupportive, non-committed foster family.)
At that moment, he made that his life goal: to attend college. And that’s what he did.
He now is an author along with his job for the Walgreens corporation. To look at him and his beautiful family (which was another goal of his life) you’d never know that he has been through what he has been through.
Then he made this statement: “No one looks like their story.”
I absolutely love that statement. It’s so very true. We all walk around, looking at each other. Passing each other in the Walmart aisle or at the intersection…or in the church foyer or parking lot. And we glance at each other, many times without having any idea the story that person has lived and is living. I’d venture to say that very few people show their true story outwardly.
Even the homeless man or woman on the street…what is their real story? They may have come from a life of great wealth or, at the least, comfort. Never having to worry about when their next meal would be or what vacation to take. But fate had it’s way with them. They lost everything. Something horrible happened along the way, and they were left destitute.
The bright-eyes cashier at the grocery store smiles, asks you if you found everything you were looking for, smiles a toothy grin and wishes you a blessed day. She looks happy and balanced and content. But what is her real story? Does she have an abusive husband at home? Did she just receive bad health news? Is she barely making ends meet for her children and herself to live?
The man in the chair in front of you at church. The one that wears leather and eye makeup and has tattoos out the wazoo and piercings on just about every body part you can see. The one that looks like he really needs Jesus, because…well, just LOOK at him. But what is his real story? Does he really have a deep, thriving, alive relationship with Christ? Does he walk the streets and visit the jails and share his story with those that need to hear it, because they won’t listen to anyone but him?
I love the picture of the young woman, sitting on a store step in a dark alley, slumped over, leaning on her folded knees, her long hair draped over her head. The caption reads, “Don’t judge her. You don’t know what storm God has asked her to walk through.”
OUCH! We cannot tell just by looking what any other person is going through or has gone through in their life. To look at some people you would never know the life they’ve had. And to look at others, you may assume you know, but you don’t. Find out before you make a judgment. Then after you find out, don’t judge. Their story is not your story. In fact, they may be surprised to hear your story.