I have a few other posts on tap (reviews for ‘Talon’ and ‘Fangirl’ to name a couple) but my heart was calling me to get this out.
Recently, my husband learned a former co-worker had committed suicide. He had left the service a while ago and most people (at least in our little circle) had fallen out of touch with him. It’s not like we really were tight friends in the first place though. We weren’t friends at all, truth be told. He was just that, a co-worker. A person that was spoke to at work then promptly forgot as soon as my husband headed home. A tertiary character in our live’s story, if you will permit me to use a literary phrase. However, the news of his death still rippled across our small military community. How many people do we meet daily that fits the above description? How many people walk into our lives then disappear? Are we causing them more harm or are we leaving them slightly better than when they met us?
My husband said he distanced himself from military life after he separated. Not surprising when I look back at his time in service. Just based on my brief encounters with him, not many in the office liked him. I was told by numerous people that he was a slacker. He did just enough to skate by and not get in trouble. I heard that his personality was abrasive sometimes when he talked of things he was passionate about, like politics (which is always a hot-button topic anywhere) and unjust social norms. Scuttlebutt even talked about personal and ongoing mistakes he had made in his marriage. Small town communities, like where we’re from, would consider those mistakes quite scandalous. He was the perfect target and fodder for a rumor mill in any office. My husband’s office was no exception. He was easily the black sheep and often treated as such.
Sadly, I don’t believe those that flapped their gums truly knew him though. No one ever does know the person next to them completely. It’s a fact of life. Even our own spouses, the people we should be most intimate with, change constantly. Most of the time, I notice people judging others for their actions without trying to understand WHY that person did what they did. On bad days, I am guilty too. Yes, sometimes people are just bad eggs, but they weren’t born that way. Something happened, something IS happening, to make them act as they do and make the decisions that they make. It’s not about forgiveness, it’s about truly seeing them. Something this world is sorely lacking, in my opinion. My husband says I remind him of Anne Frank in that regard – “I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can not build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death… I think… Peace and tranquility will return again.” Some call it naivete but I am who I am and I agree with Ms. Frank. People are good deep down, in the beginning, before the world twists them and skews their vision. Truth be told, they want to be that way again and I think they can be with some healing and understanding.
When I think of this guy, all I remember is how he’d smile every time I came to visit my husband at work. He’d hop up from his desk and help me track down my husband or wait with me until my husband was available. I remember his deep, baritone laugh when he’d make small talk with me. It was a good laugh. One that reverberated through you and made you smile when you heard it. These moments made an impression on me because I hate going into Mister’s place of business. I feel all awkward and weird. It’s like an unspoken rule: That’s his domain and I have mine at my work. I feel just as out of place when my husband comes to see me. My boss even remarked at how quickly I usher him out the door without introducing him to everyone. OUR domain is at home or when we’re out spending time together. But this guy, the guy they’d all talk down about, would go out of his way to make me feel comfortable at my husband’s office. He was sweet and kind. Another friend described him as “a gentle giant”. Was there an ulterior motive to his friendliness? Perhaps. I recognized that what they said might be true but I didn’t really care in those moments. His personal life isn’t any of my business anyway and I suspect that was the root of his poor job interest. A fault possibly inflamed by those around him. But I never brought his presumed failures into our talks. I treated him as kindly as I do everyone else. I can’t help but wonder if that’s why he was nice to me. I didn’t judge him. I took him simply as he was that day.
We won’t ever know what happened in his marriage that precipitated those scandalous mistakes. We won’t ever know why he lost interest in his job and just stopped caring about his performance. We more than likely won’t ever know what happened in his life to make him so embittered and inflammatory on certain subjects. We’ll also never know how his life spiraled so out of control after he left the service that he felt suicide was the only way to stop his pain. Not now anyway. He had a family which will forever have to deal with that shadow. Suicide leaves scars on friends and family too. We, as a society, aren’t comfortable talking about suicide and even less able to acknowledge the repercussions on those left behind. More than that though, he left this earth feeling misunderstood, broken, and alone. That’s what truly breaks my heart. This caring guy that took the time to help me is no longer around to help others. Despite the faults in life, I pray he has found some measure of peace. I also pray for healing for his family.
So when you go out today, when you interact with someone that you perceive to be difficult, I implore you to be gentle. Look on them with your heart, not the jaded glasses we often where in our daily lives. Take a step back, a deep breath, and try to see the whole picture, not just the current situation. Try to understand their actions, the motivations behind their prickly exterior. Just a request from me to mull over. I’ll close with another Anne Frank quote:
“Whoever is happy will make others happy too.”