Despite certain family members’ assertions to the contrary, I actually don’t write everything that comes into my head for public consumption. I really do make a conscious effort to determine if what I’m writing is something I’m comfortable letting other people have an opinion about. Because, trust me, people have opinions, and they are not afraid to share them. I have more than once been accused of pathological honesty. I’m pretty sure I got that from my mother.
When I sit down to write, I ask myself two questions:
- What do I know to be true?
- Is it my truth to tell?
The first question is pretty straight forward. The second one gets sticky faster than a Sugar Daddy in August. I am not the owner of all the truth I know. Part of it may belong to me, but not the center of it.
There’s been a story in the news lately about a teen girl who is suing her parents after she moved out of their home. If she was thrown out or chose to leave is a source of dispute between parties. Whether her parents owe her the money they saved for her college is the heart of the legal matter. That will ultimately come down to how her parents set up the funds and if she has a legal claim to them or not.
Almost every person I know is calling her a spoiled brat. There is a special brand of vitriol for the family who took her in. What kind of people would support this girl in her choices?
I’ll tell you what kind of person: me. See also: my parents.
When I was young, our home was a safe haven for people who had nowhere else to go. As an adult, I have continued to keep my home open to souls in need of soft place to land. The length of their stays depended on their circumstances: days, weeks, months, even years.
Every situation was extraordinarily complicated. Nearly every time, someone wasn’t happy about it.
We have always taken this very seriously. We ask ourselves if this is the proper thing to do. We deliberate what good will come of it and what bad, as much as you can ever know those things.
We wrestle with the consequences of these decisions. There are times we’ve said no. But more often than not, we say yes.
But time after time, we land in the same place: we cannot fix broken people, but we can give them a warm bed, a hot shower and clean clothes while they do the tough work of mending themselves. If they are adults, we also offer wine or whiskey.
That is my truth. The situations that bring these people to us is their truth. It’s not for me to tell. It’s not for outsiders to judge.
No one who has ever camped in our guest room was totally innocent. None of the people involved in their problems were evil incarnate. Nothing is ever that simple.
So I want to explain that even if you’ve read hundreds of new articles about a situation, you don’t know the whole story. You can’t. I want to shake people by the shoulders and tell them this girl is most likely deeply wounded, and the people who took her in probably don’t find her blameless, either.
But sometimes, people have to leave where they’ve been. Sometimes, deciding who is right or wrong is simply not the point. Sometimes, a bandage on a wound to stop the bleeding is what’s needed so healing can begin and people can be reconciled to one another.
I can’t tell you other people’s truths to demonstrate my point. But I can tell you it is never, ever, ever easy.