So much of what’s really going on with someone is hidden. Although some children and adults wear their emotions on their sleeve, there are many happy-looking, well-dressed kids who are masters of disguise. These high-functioning children are experts on being strong and holding it together, while their world is falling apart at home. No one ever really knows what goes on when they step out the school door.
I was reminded of this this week while meeting with a popular, handsome boy. He looks like my son or like any of his friends, wearing his Nike and Under Armor apparel. He’s the athlete, the straight-A student, the smart kid, and the kid everyone likes. He’s got it all, or so it appears….
But, when he goes home, he doesn’t know what kind of mood his father will be in. He knows he won’t be working because he just recently got fired, but that’s about all he knows. He doesn’t know if mom will let them continue sleeping in their beds or take them again and go, leaving the home he loves. He doesn’t know how all the bills will get paid with his pretty, nice mom working 4 jobs. He doesn’t know what his dad does when he’s gone for hours or days on end and won’t return his texts. And, when his dad isn’t home, he worries that he’ll be coming back home. In fact, he worries that he could be dead. His dad is a drug addict.
Pills. Maybe more, I don’t know, but pills are ruining the marriage and wrecking what could be a stable home. And, it is painful for a boy who’s changing and growing up himself and old enough to realize what’s going on. This isn’t the ghetto or the usual suspect. This is addiction.
But, despite the many joys and disappointments just in the past 3 months, this boy holds it together. He looks and acts like success. He is the student we want our kids to be, and the kid we want our child to play with. You’d just never know. That’s the thing- you never really know what’s going on with people. What appears to be perfect may be crumbling on the inside. If you scratch beneath the surface you may see a very different picture; one that’s not so pretty.
So, we should take opportunities to be kind. We can teach our children to choose to take little extra steps to make people feel welcomed and liked. We can stop judging people on their clothes or their looks, and search for depth and connection. We can talk about hard, sad things. And, we can practice gratitude by teaching our children to appreciate and give thanks for the things and people we have instead of what we don’t have. Because, you just never know what your neighbor or tablemate is facing.