I think about this a lot at work too. There are so many homeless people downtown. Many of them are very ill. They use their mission ids to check out newspapers. They smell very bad, don't have teeth or haircuts, their clothes are rags.
It's so much easier to just turn away from them. I try hard not to do that, I try hard to look people in the eye and speak to everyone. It's not about me, I have no idea what they've been through.
Sometimes it's especially difficult when I can just SEE that they aren't going to make it or get a break. The guy who was trying to apply for a job and needed to upload his resume comes to mind. He worked for an hour and finally called me over for help. When I explained he needed to have a digital copy of his resume in order to upload it, he was perplexed. He'd watched someone else load it onto their computer, why couldn't he find it now? He honestly thought that once it was loaded onto A computer, it was loaded onto EVERY computer.
Seems so dumb, right? But how did this guy get to be an adult without knowing something I find so basic? Or people who can't remember their email passwords and are desperate to get into accounts that are the only communication they have with family or aid organizations. HOW could they forget something so important? Easily, because we don't know what they've been through.
It's frustrating and it's hard. I have to remind myself every day to speak softly and be patient. I imagine it also must be humiliating for them to have to ask these questions and know exactly what I, and everyone else, is clearly thinking.
Or, how about when a good friend just disappears? I always think "what did I do???" when the truth is, I didn't do a thing. It's not always about me. You just don't know. The other person could have a million good or bad things going on. They are the only one who knows the status of their own life.
We only see what other people choose to show us, It never, ever is the full story. Be patient and compassionate and remember it always -- you don't know.