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Friday, July 5, 2013

We All Have Stories ... Full of Sound and Fury ... That Could Signify Important Things Indeed

 Some rights reserved by Bob AuBuchon
When I taught middle-school, friends and acquaintances would often offer their condolences. But I was one of the rare breed of people, apparently, who actually enjoyed working with middle-school-aged youngsters. One of the things that I longed to share with colleagues who seemed unhappy in their work was the fact that, for the most part, middle-schoolers do not act the way that they do in order to make their parents, teachers, or others mad ... they act the way that they do because it is developmentally appropriate for them to do so. That outlook made all the difference to me, because, in my best moments, even though I sometimes found their behavior unacceptable, I never had to take it personally. I could work to help them move on from behavior that wouldn't suit them in adulthood, without having a personal stake in any of it. The other thing that I quickly learned was that each of my students had a story. Every time that I ran up against a student who I thought was a problem, I quickly learned that the problematic behavior stemmed from some current situation or some past event of which I had up to that point been unaware. And, even though the story behind it didn't excuse the unacceptable behavior, understanding where that behavior was coming from made it much easier for me to respond with compassion and, in many instances, to more effectively help the student to find was of coping that resulted in behavior that was more socially acceptable.

My middle-school teaching days are well behind me now. But I have since learned that it is not just middle-schoolers who have stories behind their behaviors. Everyone has a story to tell. And in almost all cases, a person's behavior, whether we find it pleasant or not, can be tied, at least in part, to that story. When we know someone's story, we are much more willing to make accommodations for behavior that is less than stellar. When we know what another has been through, it makes us more compassionate in our responses. When we understand what someone else has experienced, we are less likely to take words or deeds as a personal affront, instead recognizing that they often arise from circumstances that have absolutely nothing to do with us.

If we recognize that fact when we know the story ... how much of a stretch would it be to simply assume that everyone has a story to tell, even when we do not actually know the particular details? Can we allow others the benefit of the doubt in our interactions with them ... simply because we know that they must have their own story ... even when their own narrative remains hidden from us? Must we exact the intimate details from others in order to respond with kindness, compassion, and understanding, or can it be enough to know that those details exist for them just as they do for us?

What kind of story might we create by recognizing that every person we meet is the protagonist of a tale of sound and fury signifying most everything that is important. What stories would we then be invited to be a part of or could we then create?