When I was little, my mom and I started a little family tradition called “Christmas in July”.
I was about nine years old when we did our first outing. It (literally) was July and my mom got me up out of bed one Saturday morning to do something fun. We would mismatch our clothes. We would wear the silliest outfits we had. And (of course), I had to bring my stuffed barking Christmas dog, Alex.
We got in the car, dressed in the silliest attire. I wore a mismatched pair of pants and a shirt while my mom wore the ultimate fashion combination: blue and white flowery leggings, tennis shoes, and an ugly Christmas sweater.
We were a sight for sore eyes when we went to the local diner that morning for an early breakfast.
We walked in and were immediately seated, Mom strutting her stuff in her Christmas, flower-power attire while I went around the restaurant constantly pressing the button on Alex’s paw, making him bark out different renditions of Christmas carols.
When our waitress arrived, she was a little taken aback at first, but shock was soon replaced with apathy. She brought our drinks, took our order with a gruff, and stormed away back to the kitchen. I thought making my dog bark “Here Comes Santa Claus” might cheer her up, but after a few tries I realized that she didn’t think Alex was as adorable as I thought he was. I tried to see if Alex would bark the theme song to Mr. Grinch, but apparently he didn’t know that one, so I decided to just keep that to myself every time the waitress walked by.
But as the waitress came back, eventually checking on us and bringing our food, she turned to my mom and struck up a conversation. She began telling us a story about how terrible things had been for her. She was working long hours and was exhausted. She didn’t get paid much and didn’t have much to get by on. Life was difficult and joy was a rarity.
But after she saw our silly attire and how much we tried to make her laugh, she started to feel better. She told my mom that seeing us brought a smile to her face and gave her that extra spark she needed to finish her shift. She even thought my barking Christmas dog was cute, and Alex barked her an upbeat version of “Jingle Bells”.
What really got the waitress, though, was what my mom told her back.
The waitress felt tired from working so many hours. So did my mom, who worked full time at a high stress job.
The waitress was struggling financially to provide for her family. So was my mom, who was raising a little girl all by herself.
The waitress was feeling hopeless. My mom felt that way once, too, when she was going through her divorce.
And so my mom told her story. In the end, the waitress was near tears as she and my mom shared two simple words: “I understand”.
I learned a valuable lesson that day with my mom. Sometimes we come across people who are mean, a little irritated, or upset. Sometimes we come across people who are kind, very joyous, and upbeat. Sometimes we come across people who are just living their life. But regardless of who we meet, everyone has a story.
Some, like the waitress, have a sad story. Others have happy ones. Still others have a mixture of good and bad. But everyone has a story, and sometimes, when we come across the right people at the right time, we can share our stories and find hope through the common plots of life.
Too often people think that their story isn’t worth sharing, though. It’s not “exciting enough”, “powerful enough”, or “inspirational enough”. But what people don’t realize is that not everyone’s story is an action novel. Not everyone’s story is a soap opera. Not everyone’s story is a comedy. We all have different stories with different plots and actions and characters.
But even though we may not think our story is special, someone else might. Our “boring tale” may be the most inspirational classic to someone who may be going through similar circumstances or searching for hope.
No matter what, every story is important. Every story is unique. Every story, no matter how mundane or simple, is powerful. All it takes is willingness to share, because there’s always an audience out in the world just waiting to hear what you have to say.