cloud and rayLast fall, someone close to me was very, very sick. On the day we finally started getting some answers and the doctors thought they could pinpoint the problem and even solve it, I was finally able to see the forest for the trees again. After all the agonizing, the worry, the prayers, suddenly, there was the ray of sunlight from the dark cloud overhead. One small ray that opened up all possibility.

Everything I’d been unable to do for a while: rest properly, eat a decent meal, think about something silly, returned–slowly at first, and then gradually more and more.

Around this time, I tentatively walked into one of my favorite restaurants to get some food to go, and I sat at the bar to wait while I measured my relief by my returning appetite.

A friend who works there came up and asked me how things were going—she hadn’t seen me in a while. Even with my appetite and growing relief, I couldn’t talk about everything that had happened yet. I just couldn’t. And I wanted to be sensitive to others around me and stick to a positive conversation, something light. So I chatted about my cat and dog, and the way they were shedding all over the house, even though it was the beginning of winter and they’d certainly need their fur… It made my friend laugh, and that felt good.

One fella at the bar was paying out and getting up to leave—I recognized him as a server at another area restaurant. As he passed by, he muttered, “First world problems,” to me.

I can’t tell you how deflating this was, except to point out that it’s taken me all this time to write about it, and that of the great and wonderful things that have happened in life over these past 6 months, that moment, that comment and the awful way I felt when he said it, is still something that I remember.

That moment, though, had something to teach me. Rather than dwell on the wound every time I remember it, and oh, I want to, I remind myself to drop it and instead realize that everyone is dealing with something. Whether they want to talk about it, whether they show it or not, everybody’s got something on their plate that’s tough to handle.

And while some say respect is earned, I say respect is one of the few things in life that we can offer freely. It’s not easy—it takes practice and patience, and the belief that people are more than just the silly things we say. That takes discipline on our part—but we’re better people for it.

Begin a practice of listening to everything that’s not being said around you, and offer respect to that silence as if your very character depends on it. You know I’m going to say it: Because it does.

My first book, Upside Down Kingdom, is available on Amazon.