I read this story shared by a woman named Michelle. Michelle recently passed away and this is the last story she shared before passing:
“One Sunday morning when I was a little girl, my father surprised me and took me to the fishing docks. Instead of fishing, like all the other little children were doing with their parents, we sat down on the end of one of the docks and watched all the other children fish. For over an hour, we sat there and watched until we left without ever casting a single fishing line into the water.
I was simultaneously sad and angry. On the drive home I told my father that I’d never forgive him for being so mean to me. He looked at me, smiled and said, “I love you, Michelle.” When I didn’t respond, he asked, “Did you notice how happy all the other little girls and boys were? Did you see their smiles? Could you feel the happiness in their hearts?” After a moment of silence I quickly snapped, “I don’t really care! I just want to go fishing like everyone else!” My father took a deep breath and kept driving.
We went back to the fishing docks dozens of Sunday mornings throughout my childhood. And each time we saw dozens of other little girls and boys jumping and laughing and celebrating as they reeled in fish. But we still never cast a single fishing line into the water. We just sat there on the end of that same dock and watched. And my father never explained why. But he didn’t need to. Because years later, after I entered adulthood, and found myself volunteering at a local homeless shelter, I suddenly realized that those mornings spent sitting on that dock was where I learned how to love.”
Michelle’s last story continues to make me think…
How often do I pass people in a hurry, without caring or thinking twice?
How often do I judge those who aren’t moving at my pace?
How seldom do I ever stop. Just to witness. Or to listen. Or to love.
Every person's story is just as fascinating, complicated and worthy as my own. Everyone has gone through something that has unintentionally changed them and forced them to struggle, adapt and grow. Everyone’s smile has been earned. Everyone we meet has fought hard, and continues to fight in some way.
Pausing from time to time to appreciate all the human beings around me opens my mind. Sharing in their happiness (or their frustrations) opens my heart.
If we choose to take time to pause — to truly witness and listen, instead of bypassing or judging too quickly, we can learn so much… about ourselves, about each other, and about real love.
When I choose to take time to pause and shift my thinking, it allows me to experience many more of my healthy hopes and dreams!