A good friend of mine told me that his word of the week is “context”. He wrote it on a post-it and stuck it to his computer screen. He’s a paramedic. He told me the story of a middle aged alcoholic indigenous woman whom he has treated many times, usually after she has been beaten or is in custody. He told me this woman can “see” him; that she sees beyond the official accoutrements of his uniform and treatment, beyond the efficiency of his ministering and comforting, and in the simple act of holding his hand when she’s really busted up they seem to me to be healing each other. My friend told me that when he finds himself judging people, he thinks of her.
I haven’t been able to get this story out of my head. It struck me that we are all, always, relating to each other out of context. It’s become routine to collide with people throughout the day furiously hiding our own context for fear of judgment, whilst simultaneously judging others as if their circumstances were completely self-created and blame-worthy. Christ knows I’m guilty of it. Is it an evolutionary thing, whereby our self-interest is hard-wired from the days we had to step on each other’s backs to get back to the cave before we were eaten by wolves? Or is this a more contemporary development, a symptom of a culture so obsessed with externals that we have been conned into believing: “No one bleeds the same way I do so I’m not sharing my band-aids.”?
I wonder how things would be different if we recognized that the human being standing in front of us is the product of lots and lots of stories, some they wrote themselves and some they were cast in against their will.