7 Billion Shades of Gray

April 2, 2013

I helped bury a friend’s dog recently. I’d never personally buried an animal that I was so close to. I had never sat with someone I knew so well as they lost the animal that got them through so many emotional points in their life.

This dog had absorbed so much pain and joy from my friend. He was his trusted link to life. So when he became ill, my friend had to look outside his insular world built around him and his dog and realize that he had a community of friends that wouldn’t abandon him…. friends – and a life – he could trust.

You see, my friend lost his father in a plane crash when he was a child. His world -his story of family and safety and trust – was shattered. Another father figure entered his life and began to abuse him in ways too awful to describe.

My friend created a well-deserved cocoon for himself and his beliefs – hidden safely away from the outside world.

The vet that heard my friend cry… scream… in anguish over the loss of this dog had no idea where the depths of the cry came from. But I did. I heard a boy losing his father – losing his innocence – losing everything that he thought was real – in an instant…. and then if that wasn’t enough… more pain to penetrate to the core of his deepest wound. In his cry I began to hear crying children everywhere – shattered by an event – death, abuse, rape, abandonment – the traumas that can break a soul.

And I thought right then, as I saw life leave the dog and heard the primal screams from my dear friend. What do we know about anyone? How can we possibly judge any action we don’t fully understand? Every person’s story has a depth and complexity to it that deserves deep respect and full attention if we’re going to base any judgment or action of our own on someone else’s behavior.

The vet had no clue where the depth of my friend’s cries came from. Fortunately, she was a sensitive soul – maybe she recognized the sound. I certainly had no idea what her story was. In fact, I was already assuming (as I still am) that she couldn’t understand. Maybe she knew exactly what those cries meant because she had cried similar tears.

We just don’t know. Unless we take the time and suspend our own story long enough to hear someone else’s. And even then, it’s imperfect. We can all agree on certain things… but ultimately, reality is completely and utterly subjective.

No story is the only story. But there is one common element. Love. And every story is just trying to find its way back to the safety found in love.

7 billion versions of them.