This past weekend, I spent a few days with my family – my mom and dad, my uncle, and my grandparents – for my grandfather’s 90th birthday. Dave came along, and we had a really great time. We laughed a lot, and my grandfather told stories about WWII. It was a really wonderful time.
While I was there, I kept thinking about how much I don’t know about my grandparents. My grandfather rarely talks about the war – he came to Dachau shortly after it was liberated – and my grandmother doesn’t share a great deal about her Pennsylvania German upbringing either. We’ve asked, and sometimes – like this weekend – we get stories, but the stories never seem to capture the weight of their experiences.
So much of life goes on beneath the surface of experience, and so when we don’t even know the full extent of another person’s experience, we are left – largely – in the dark about what makes them who they are. We don’t know which pains have caused their stalwartness in the face of tragedy, and we don’t know which joys make their toes tingle. We really know so little about one another, even the ones we know and love best.
This weekend, I was reminded how powerful love can be – that even though we may not know all that makes a person who she or he is, we can love them with the force of a hurricane. Perhaps this is why we cannot know anyone fully – perhaps if we did, we would find our flawed selves unable to love truly.
Today, I am grateful for what I do know of the people I love, and I still long to know more. I am also praying for the compassion and wisdom to see people as icebergs – glorious, mighty beings who full existence rests beneath the surface. I am praying for the compassion to realize there is so much that I cannot see in each person I meet, and I am praying that I may know more and love more as I learn.
There is always more to humanity than we can see; think of your own life – what is going on “behind the scenes” in your existence that most people don’t know? If we have this much iceberg hiding in the depths, don’t those around us have at least as much hidden pain and glory as we do?