Sum totals.

She is sitting on a park bench, glued, it seems to her phone, scrolling and typing and engaging with whatever is on the screen. Two small children crawl on the playscape in her line of vision, calling out, “Mommy! Look!” every once in a while in her direction. She looks up each time, smiles, says, “I see you!” and immediately goes back to her phone.

Get off the phone, lady! Right?!? Here are her children, begging for her attention, and there she is, all up in her screen. What kind of mother is that?

Fair enough, I suppose. Most of us know we spend too much time in virtual life and far too little time really connecting.


What if I told you she’s a fulltime single mother? And that phone contains her work email? And she knew her kids needed to be outside, playing, but she also has a project due.

What if I told you she has no family nearby, and this job is her only source of income, and if she loses it, she isn’t sure what she would do?

What if I told you that letting the playground “babysit” her kids for the moment is truly the only way she can serve them and her work, both?

None of us are just any one thing. None of us are what someone else sees of us in one moment, on one day. None of us are a single experience. None of us are to be taken at face value.

We are not just any one thing. We are many things. Sum totals of a lifetime of what’s happened to us and what has not. And into any space, large or small, unbidden or fully welcome, we bring all that we are.

All. That we are.

When you have a conversation or experience with me, you are interacting with a pastor, a writer, a single mother, a divorcee, a cancer survivor, a woman who has lived, since birth, in five different states and 10 different cities. You are interacting with someone who has felt fully desired and fully cast aside. You are interacting with every pain and every grief and every betrayal I have ever felt. You are interacting with every sin I’ve committed and very failure I’ve known. You are interacting with every thing I doubt about myself and every thing I believe to be good and true about myself. You are interacting with Madeleine L’ Engle and Pat Conroy and Harry Potter and Tony Stark and Princess Leia and Indigo Girls and John Rutter and Bon Jovi and Willie Nelson and every other writer or musician or fictional character who has influenced how I think and feel and have being..

You are not interacting with just this one moment. Or just one piece of me. It’s all of me. Whether you or I realize it or not.

Because we are not just any one thing.

We are all the things.

And we can no more separate out various pieces and parts of who we are than we could cut out our own heart and survive.

I wonder what would happen if we not only acknowledged this, but made space for it? And not just for ourselves, but for every interaction, of every day?

What if we entered into every daily exchange having created figurative space around ourselves for all the things unseen — both in ourselves and in those we meet?

What if we just admitted that we don’t know what any one person is carrying? That we have no way of really grasping the truths of another person’s life?

What if we allowed that his heart might have been shattered in a million pieces, too? Or that her anxiety is off the charts today? Or that he might have seen his dad hit his mom? Or that she has lost yet another pregnancy? Or that he’s lost all hope and so really, just putting one foot in front of the other is small miracle?

What if we were quicker to allow for what we don’t know, and slower to judge and assume?

What if?

One thought on “Sum totals.

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