Most of us have seen or heard about Ted Williams, the man with the “golden voice”, who was homeless and panhandling when a local journalist filmed him.  He truly does have an almost perfect announcer’s voice, and since then the video has been seen by millions on youtube, Ted has appeared on several television news/talk  shows, and he has been offered many opportunities in advertising, sports announcing, etc.  During several of Ted’s interviews, when asked what message he has for others, he said that “everyone has a story”, and “don’t judge a book by its cover”.  Yes, we all saw him so differently once we heard his story;  a life of love, loss, drugs, alcohol, disappointment, pain, and redemption.  He became more than a homeless person.  He became human, and worth our compassion.

I am not alone in trying to always remember that everyone has a story.  I have spoken with other women and men who share that they too teach their children that we should never assume we know someone else’s story .  It is easy to conclude that someone is nasty, rude or angry because they are not a nice person.  It is much more challenging to give them the benefit of the doubt, allow them to be in the state they are in because they may be facing something much more upsetting than what we see.

Reminders of this important lesson can at happen anytime.  For me, one of these times occurred when I was not even there.  The lesson was brought to me by a very close friend and a stranger.  My friend had been driving within about ten miles of a family member’s house.  She got a call from that house telling her to come home right away, that someone in her family was having a medical emergency.  Naturally, she did what anyone would do in her situation.  She sped home, as quickly as she could.  As a result, she drove aggressively, pulling closely in front of other cars, and neglecting some “rules of the road”.  One of the people who she pulled in front of apparently became angry (as we all have in this situation), and went so far as to follow my friend for the next few miles all the way home.  He or she probably wanted to yell, swear, possibly even hurt my friend.  When both my friend and the other driver pulled up to the house, what they found there was an ambulance.  My friend didn’t stop for even a second to talk to the other driver.  She had been aware that they had been following her, and aware that they saw what she was in such a hurry for.  I often think about what this stranger must have thought and felt.  I can’t imagine that the lesson was lost on them.  I like to think that it changed what they assume about people forever.

Sometimes the story helps explain, as the ambulance in the driveway did.  Other times, the story gives us insight, understanding, and helps us to be patient and compassionate.  We may not know the story when we are trying to make sense of people, but it helps to just remember that we all have one.