The Naked City, a TV series that ran from 1958 to 1963, ended each episode with the line, “There are eight million stories in the Naked City; this has been one of them.” The truth is, everyone has a story, but we don’t always know what it is.
Someone cuts us off in traffic. Jerk, we think, without knowing whether he had reason to be in a rush. Someone we know walks past us without saying hello. How rude, we think, without knowing what was on her mind.
Taped to the wall of my office is a prayer someone sent me once. I don’t remember who sent it or where the person found it, but I try to read it once in a while, to remember that there is always a story, even when I don’t know what it is. I hadn’t read it in a while and was reminded of it when I read the Of Many Things column in a recent America magazine, which talked about how understanding others helps us deal with small annoyances. The prayer reads:
Heavenly Father, Help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.
Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can’t make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.
Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.
Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.
At the same time that we pray to remember the stories of others, we might also pray that others will take a moment to consider our story at those moments when we are rushed and irritating to them. We, too, have our stories.