The guy at the bar.
On empathy and the stories unseen.
He's sitting there, drinking his beer, passing the time. He isn't really talking to anyone. Mostly just letting his eyes drift from the televisions to the patrons to the bartenders and finally back to his beer. Walk into any bar in the world and you will see this guy. He is no one special. He is simply the guy at the bar.
I've been the guy at the bar 100s of times in my life before, and I've never thought anything of it. But that all changed about a month ago. My handful of minutes spent waiting for my to-go pizza order forever changed how I will look at the guy at the bar. I was sitting there passing the time, letting my eyes drift from the televisions to the patrons to the bartenders, and thinking...
"Not a single one of these people knows that I have to go back to the hospital after this and say goodbye to my first born son."
It was not a Woah Is Me moment. It was Woah Is We moment. How many times had I been sitting at the bar not realizing the guy next to me was fighting his own battle? Or how about across the bar? Or the bartender? Or the guy making my pizza? It was in that moment that I realized a happy place does not always equate to happy people within it. It's easy to look around at everyone having a great time and think how there isn't a care in the world. But the reality is this. There is always a guy at the bar. In nearly every situation in our life, there is a guy at the bar.
The guy that cut you off on the highway after work. He's exhausted from spending the past week sleeping next to wife's hospital bed as she fights her own battle with cancer.
The guy that just brought you a cheeseburger, when you explicitly said no cheese. He's $100,000 in debt from college, and can't find another job as the bills and stress pile.
The guy that's giving you phone support for your overcharged cable bill. His wife just left him for someone else, and took their 2 kids with her.
The guy at the airline counter who just told you they oversold the flight and you don't have a seat. He was just diagnosed with ALS, and is planning how to break the news to his family.
The guy in the express checkout line who clearly has more than 10 items. He is 30 days sober wondering when his next relapse is going to be, and if it will be the final one.
Every single day of our life is just a collection of moments. Moments where we get to choose the person we're going to be. I can flip the guy on the highway off. I can leave the waiter no tip. I can cuss out the cable rep. I can threaten to get the airline attendant fired. I can roll my eyes at the guy in the front of me in the checkout line.
Or I can realize that I don't know their story. I can realize that I don't know what fight they're fighting. I can realize I haven't walked in their shoes. I can realize that at this very moment in time, there's a chance that they're the guy at the bar.