On my morning drive this morning to work, I decided to stop by the cemetery to spend some time with my mother, who recently passed away, as well as my brother, who was also buried in that same cemetery 17 years ago. I often stop by the cemetery before work because it is within a mile or so of my regular route, and because it gives me a little bit of quiet time for myself to reflect and reorient myself for the day.
As I slowly drove down the small roads of the Mesa cemetery, there were the usual signs directing mourners to the handful of funerals taking place today although it was too early in the morning to have any taking place yet. I have noticed there are always a handful or more on any given day in this particular cemetery, and I will admit it has brought some perspective to my view of my own trials and the difficulties others experience as well.
On this particular day, directly across from where my mother was laid to rest, was a canopy and several chairs set up in the standard fashion in preparation for a funeral. I had seen more than a few of these over the past months during my visits to the cemetery, so I almost dismissed it without a second thought. However, something about this one was different and it took me a moment to figure out what it was.
The canopy was the same, and the chairs were the standard plastic that I had sat upon to say goodbye to my own mother just a few months ago. The burial plot was essentially the same setup as I had seen as well, only this one was... much smaller. This one was one in which someone would soon come to place a small casket, one no more than three feet long. What I could only assume is a casket built for a small child.
When I came to the realization, tears welled up in my eyes for the family who later this day would be burying a tiny member of their family. I do not know who the funeral was for, and out of respect for the family I did not attempt to find out. The sorrow for myself switched to heartbreak for this little person and the family that was left behind.
This and other experiences I have had recently have opened my eyes to something I was oblivious to before: every family in every car I see driving down the road, every person I work with, and every individual I have a chance to interact with is on their own path with their own unique challenges. Even though I may never know what is going on with many of the people I come into contact with, I know that I will never feel exactly what they are feeling.
I will never know why the cashier was short with me last week while I was checking out at the grocery store. Maybe she was at the end of a long double shift. Maybe she was stressed because she is having a hard time making ends meet. Maybe she had just just had enough. I don't think I will ever know. Sure, it's possible she is just an unpleasant person, but I would venture to say that is rarely the case. More likely her path through life was just hard at the particular time I threw my slab of bacon, cereal, and bread down on her conveyor belt.
It really doesn't matter why. However, what does matter is that we recognize that everyone is on a different path, and everyone is facing different challenges. Even if you are both students in the same discipline, or workers in the same field, or even members of the same faith, everyone has their own demons to face. The best thing we can do is not become another dark spot in someone else's day.
Instead become someone's light in the darkness. Be the person who sees someone who is having a bad day and offers to lift them up. Give a larger than expected tip to a waiter or waitress. Smile sincerely at someone you meet on the subway, if for no other reason than to scatter a little sunshine. It sounds too simple to be worth much, but I know for myself that one simple act of kindness by a family member, friend, or even stranger can make all the difference.
If you think your life is pretty great right now, help make someone else's better. One day, when your life hits the skids, someone might return the favor.