My 17-year-old daughter recently started a summer job. It’s her first real direct deposit, wear a blouse but jeans are ok answer the phone and make copies office-type professional job. Just short term, saving money for college but a job none-the-less. She tells us amusing stories of her misadventures and encounters with the large world outside her small home-town and local school. One recent Friday she shared a story of frustration; a customer called asking a question that was its own answer. He was difficult, seemingly, for the sake of being difficult. After several minutes of circular Q&A the customer brusquely asked to speak to “someone that knows what they’re talking about.”
I realized too late in life, after the glow of young adult invincibility faded, that life is universally hard. In hindsight the personal and tragically un-tragic tragedies of my late twenties through thirties were so trite and meaningless; losing friends, having fights, living life, it seemed so tough; little did I know.
The tragedies that came to me in my forties, that others experience earlier, brought with them the knowledge that I had known nearly nothing of loss, pain, or strife. Without going into depth and sharing too much, I’ll say life suddenly became hard. I’m a sharer by nature (often sharing too much for my wife’s comfort); I seldom hold anything back. And as I shared my pain I learned that almost everyone is dealing with tragedies of their own; some bigger and some smaller, but tragedies all the same.
This is my realization; most of us, everywhere, every day, are dealing with STUFF. And not the stuff of dreams but the type of stuff that will beat you down and hold you there until you scream uncle. The type of STUFF that would seem right at home in a Dickensian novel. The type of stuff that defines tragedy. Loved ones are sick, parents are dying, teens are out of control, and spouses are louts.
I realized that it is nothing short of miraculous that we are able to drag ourselves out of bed, shower, pull on pants and face this too cruel world with a false and unwavering sense of bravado that hides the pain we all have deep down, in our loneliest and darkest places.
With that in mind, I wonder, I ask, I plead… Is it too much to ask, that as the simple price we pay for living with each other in an increasingly uncivil-civil society… can’t we just be nice to each other? Let’s just be nice! It costs nothing and pays you back every time; always a strong return on investment, always.
After all, everybody is somebodies’ daughter.
This post originally appeared on LinkedIn on July 1, 2016
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