This past week, my mom and I went on a road trip down to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is oh so sweet to drive all of those miles to let me see my friends as I went between reading and, truly mostly, sleeping on the five hour drive down. We arrived on a rainy Tuesday night, and grabbed dinner at a local restaurant on the quintessential Franklin Street before heading over to the hotel nearby. We laughed with the nice lady at the front desk before heading over to our room for a much needed night of sleep, but this would simply be a hope a few hours later.
At first the noises were faint strains of conversations from the female sounding voices next door that could hardly be heard above our television, and so we waited. After a couple of hours of readings and as our eyes began to glaze over in the night, it became about time to get some rest. Around then is when the noises picked up from the women next door. What began as a little bit of an irritation became unbearably loud conversation whafting over across the thin walls. Next thing that I knew, multiple phone calls were being made to the front desk to ask for some noise control because we could not sleep. About seven calls later, I realized we weren’t going to get too much sleep that night and frustration consumed me.
The next morning, we laughed it off, and moved room. We, like detectives, walked by there room on the way to our new one, and giggled at the silliness of last night. But this little voice whispered inside of me and made me pause. We laughed, but what if God wept. We had heard that they were long term guests, and a flood of guilt and possible stories filled my head. They could have been fighting for their very lives, raising their voices in plea, hoping to be heard. And maybe the point is that we do not know what is going on with the women next door beyond the thin walls. We only hear snippets of that conversation and just maybe as we laughed by, God wept with compassion for what could have been.
This is not to say that it would have been the safest thing to go over there and ask what was wrong; truly I don’t know what would have been the very best thing, but to say that we never know what someone is going through. She could have been crying out to be heard for a family we do not see. She could have been praying that God would help her in a loud voice wanting to be heard. She could have been anything and anyone that I do not see. It makes me think about a little metaphor of the women in the other room. Who are the women in the other room in our day to day lives. The person who doesn’t smile back, the one who doesn’t acknowledge our presence; there is a story and a life behind these actions and reactions, and may we have grace and compassion for those around us seeing more than a frame of a moment, but rather a line of many stories in a collection of books called this life.