Some days remind us that every human being has a story. And most of the time we don’t know many of the details. This week brought several of those days.

The specifics — not really appropriate to recount here — have prompted plenty of introspection on my part. Much of it has centered on how we treat those we encounter.

Angry Words

I simply don’t understand a predisposition to do everything possible to prevent connecting — with family, colleagues, those with whom we disagree, even a random stranger.

Perhaps it is naivety; but I’m glad I don’t get it. Basic human kindness seems like one of the things we should be able to get right.

Sure…we all have a bad day — one where the knee-jerk response is to take personal frustrations out on another individual.

But I don’t get the constant comments meant to demean, belittle or even wound another person. What purpose does this serve?

Is it designed to communicate?

Maybe at times it is effective. The first phone call I received a few mornings ago lasted less than 90 seconds; but in that time the word stupid was used repeatedly to convey an opinion on a particular matter. Communication received. (Once was all that was necessary.)

So I suppose we should stipulates that communication may be taking place when hateful words are spewed…when ideas meant to tear down or diminish value are uttered.

In the meantime, nothing is being built.

What didn’t occur during that random phone call was any bridge-building. The occasion was one of disconnecting — from any real conversation…any exploration…any attempt to find a productive solution.

And in the process — whether in phone calls, social media posts or face-to-face encounters — we may be missing important stories. Stories of hunger. Of insecurity, pain or trauma.

Or we might be missing a moment of joy.

This week my heart broke over the details of three human stories. In each the only thing that matters is doing the right thing with another human being. Winning an argument, proving a point, being correct or vindicated — none of this matters one iota. To be there…to extend a hand…to represent hope…to be aware enough to simply sit, and care — this is what matters in so many moments.

In a brief post today Seth Godin concludes with this thought: “If you’re not drowning, you’re a lifeguard.”

The New Testament puts it this way. “By this will men know you are My disciples; that you love one another.”

May human kindness and gentle words be the order of our days.