I recall September 11th, 2001 like it was two minutes ago. Similarly I remember the numerous conversations I had in itâ€™s aftermath vividly. One of the comments I remember most clearly was from a friend of mine who was talking about the people you could be seen falling to their demise in one of the numerous videos. It was a simple and seemingly uninspiring turn of phrase, however it how a power far beyond the loquacious sum of its linguistic parts. He said:
At first that person seems so inanimate, and it is easy to detach. But as you watch him fall, you realize he is just a normal guy like I am. He has a family, he has a life, he has hopes and dreams, he has bills and problems. He is no different than you or me, except he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now he is falling.
This was one of the most humanizing observations I have ever heard, and it has stuck with me to this day. Reflecting on the power of that simple observation has left me in tears more than once. As I have written about before, it is very easy during our busy lives to forget that the people we cross paths with daily are not the extras in our movie, but rather the stars of their own.
Part of the reason this has stuck with me is that you do not need to be falling off a building for the lesson to apply.
Everyday, people fall.
Few are falling from burning and collapsing buildings, but they are falling nonetheless.
Sometimes, the fall is a result of actions or mistakes they themselves have made, but they are falling nonetheless.
They are falling and they are no different than you or me. They have bills and problems, they have hopes and dreams, they have livesâ€¦ and those lives, to whatever degree, are shattered.
They didnâ€™t ask to be falling, even if they did create the environment. They didnâ€™t mean to mess up their lives, or anyone elseâ€™s, even though they may have done exactly that.
Today Iâ€™m left with an overwhelming sense of forgiveness and tenderness toward those that many do not feel deserve it. Iâ€™m not talking about murders or rapists, but people who have simply made bad choices, hurt themselves and others, and are living with the consequences of those actions.
People who are falling, people whose humanity is being lost in the bigger picture, people who are not all that different from me and you.