Now, add Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, or any other social media network where life appears fluid, seamless, and rosy with every scroll, swipe, or finger touch. Consider your thoughts when you see photographs of selfies, smiles, and feet propped high. Do you think how lucky? How fortunate? Do you wonder why your life is so challenging, but not theirs? Do you wonder why setbacks only happen to you? It's enough to drive you insane, if it hasn’t already.
I have no doubt we enjoy seeing “everyone else” have a great time. Who wouldn’t want to see their family, friends, or acquaintances enjoy life to the fullest? That would be petty or selfish, otherwise. Similarly, who wouldn’t want you to lead a full life? Everyone loves to hear about a trip to the beach or a brush with celebrity or a kid’s school or sports success. It's a natural curiosity.
But, it’s the other side of our lives, the side rarely seen, that needs more of our attention.
Too often, we focus on life’s fantasy while missing the forest for the trees. Too often, we are blind to realize that EVERYONE deals with life challenges, some tragic. Too often, we fail to understand or see our neighbor’s silent struggle. Sicknesses, debts, failures, accidents, loneliness, joblessness, drug addiction, alcoholism, mental illness, broken hearts, lost loves, death…it’s all there, often unspoken, exhausting, and right next door.
It's not that we don’t care. It's that we often don’t know.
Ask yourself. What challenges are your neighbors dealing with RIGHT NOW? Do you know their hopes and fears? Are you aware of their current health condition, and how they may be worried or scared beyond themselves for what the future may hold? Do you know if one of their relatives has entered hospice care? Do you stop to consider that perhaps a reason you haven’t seen them in a while is not because of a busy lifestyle, but because they have been getting treatments for a serious health issue? Do you stop to consider that perhaps they could use a hand, an ear to vent or confide in, or a shoulder to cry on?
I ask these questions because I believe THAT is where we should focus. We should concern less on the illusion and more on the reality. We should realize our similarity and less our difference. We should be there for one another, if only to listen.
Life is hard, but we can make it so much better by simply starting a conversation.