I was sitting on Judson’s bench this weekend as Jessie played on the nearby playground equipment. While in a trance, caught in memories of Jud running and jumping on the little bridge directly in front of me, a father came and also sat down on the bench. He struck up small talk with me, unknowingly disrupting my musing over Jud Bud. As we chatted, a little boy suddenly came bounding over – a bright toe-head in a Lightning McQueen hat—and proceeded to give his dad, the man seated next to me, a high five and then went back to running around in the dirt.
“How old is your son?” I inquired, imagining my Juddy running up to slap-me-some-skin too.
“He’s five,” the man responded, full of well-warranted fatherly pride.
“Wow,” I replied under my breath with a deep sigh, taken back by his son’s similarity in age to Judson.
As the dad continued talking, my mind was all tied up in my little man as I tried to listen. Part of me felt compelled to tell this dad about my beloved boy who had a mutual love for Lightning McQueen with an age that paralleled his son…but I chose to keep my silence.
Meanwhile, as we sat together on my Juddy’s bench, the heel of his shoe covering part of the memorial plaque cemented in the ground, I couldn’t help but consider how he had absolutely no idea that the woman sitting next to him is the mother of the little boy whose name is embossed in bronze under his foot. This man was completely unaware that he and his boy were forcefully colliding with the sorrow in my heart.
Subsequently, I started to wonder what invisible pains might be in his heart. Perhaps, unbeknownst to me, I was triggering his brokenness. And maybe not him, but possibly someone else I had interacted with that day – the person I passed on my walk in the morning, or the grocer at our local market, or the man sitting at the adjacent table in Starbucks. Did they have unseen anguish? Did I inadvertently joggle their undetected pains?
It is odd how we can brush up against people every day, with stories just as real and significant as our own, yet never know what might be behind their sweet smile, distant stare, deep sigh, or nervous laugh. It is a reminder to never forget that every pair of eyes reflects a unique journey of trials and triumph, inherently valuable, whether known or not.
I want to see outside myself to the stranger beside me.