You Never Know What Someone’s Been Through

Five minutes earlier the police officer I was riding with had gotten a domestic disturbance call. He pulled his car in front of the house. Another officer arrived moments later. They knocked on the door.

I was standing behind them.

(For almost five years, I rode with area police officers one night each week. Generally, I rode for about four hoursadchild.jpgs, sometimes with officers on the evening shift and sometimes with officers working the midnight shift. I was one of three volunteer chaplains in our police department.)

It was about 12:30 a.m. A child opened the door and the officers and I went into the house. The husband who had been fighting with his wife had left. In the house was his wife, holding a towel to her bloody head and four children scurrying throughout the house. The officers looked through the house and stepped into the bedroom where there was blood on the bed and floor.

Meanwhile, the television blared. The EMTs came into the house and began to work with this woman.

I tried to stay out of the way and talked with a couple of the children. Then I saw the stack of school books on top of a dresser. It was now almost 1 a.m. The school bus would be coming in a matter of hours and these children had not even gone to bed yet.

Finally, the officer I was with had all the information he needed for his report.   

These children went to the same elementary school where Charlotte was teaching. I tried to imagine these four children at school later that morning. A teacher would be at the board talking about a math problem or a science project. How did these children manage to keep from falling asleep at their desks after such an exhausting night.

Yet, who would look at them and give any thought about what they had been through just to get to school that day.

This is a reality that I want to remember: You never know what someone has gone through.

Suppose you interact with five people today. What have they gone through just to get to today?

  • Perhaps one person is deeply concerned about a rebellious married child. She is awake all hours of the night, praying and thinking about this.
  • Perhaps one person finds it hard to trust people. Again and again she has been hurt, by men in particular.
  • Perhaps one person seems to lack energy. The medication he is taking leaves him without much energy for the afternoon.
  • Perhaps one person is having serious financial problems. He has been trying to support his aging mother and this is really hitting his family hard financially.
  • Perhaps one person seems really preoccupied at times. He wonders if he will survive the next cut at work.

Are these excuses? Not at all.

However, knowing the story of a person can sometimes prevent inaccurate assumptions and overreacting. Maybe knowing someone’s story can create some compassion.


Do you recall being amazed by the resilience of a person in your life? How did the knowledge of that person’s story impact the way you viewed her?


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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10 thoughts on “You Never Know What Someone’s Been Through

  1. I believe that one of the greatest spiritual strengths that we can develop and grow…through the help of the Spirit…is the ability to withhold judgment. This helps us to be in a position to act, rather than react…to help rather than hinder. Thank you for these challenging thoughts. Blessings, Don

  2. My father is currently going through radiation for esophageal cancer and my brother and I are alternating taking him to treatment. This is putting me in an environment to see people who are having a tough time. As I miss a couple of hours of work here and there and am fighting tiredness and cranky moods, I see people like the parents who bring their adult son for treatment every day and they travel over an hour to get to the hospital. Our commute is only about a half hour. This family comes in the room joking around with each other and lightening the mood, when sometimes the last thing I want to do is chitchat. This experience is making me look at life with fresh eyes. I’m still cranky at times, but I do a lot of inner dialogue encourgaing myself to just take it a moment at a time and to appreciate what I have in those moments versus overwhelming myself with all that I have to do or how little time that I have for myself, etc., etc. Everyone that I see in this part of the hospital is either a cancer patient or is with a cancer patient and they have a story. Many are tired and it shows, but they are there and by and large, they’re trudging through their experience. So, in a way, we’re all in it together even if we don’t know each other’s names or histories. We share something and lest I get too cranky, all I need to do is look around the room and see people who very possibly have it much worse than me or my father.

    • Pat, I am so thankful that you posted this comment. What an experience. You have a front row seat before family after family as they try to deal with sickness/suffering. Very insightful of you to watch these other families and learn/grow from the experience with them.

      I wish you and your father God’s richest blessings as he continues his treatment.

      Jim Martin

  3. Jim,

    Powerful thoughts! I appreciate your words and reminder that sometimes people do not always have the ideal siuations in life. Even though we think we know this, we often forget. I am constantly stimulated and challenged by your words. Blessings and Peace brother!

    Because Jesus is LORD!