Verdant manicured hills stretch out to either side of the winding road to the country club. The sun streaks through the oak trees, reaching out with golden afternoon light. Jordan eases her car in between two Mercedes cars and with practiced nonchalance, we saunter into the gated, elite, and forbidden community.
“If anyone asks, we’re here to meet the Carlson’s.” she whispers. Eyes cast down, we make our way to the corner of the pool and snag some of the ornate lounge chairs. I survey our company at Kansas City’s swankiest Country Club we have just snuck into for an afternoon dip. It feels like an Ann Taylor catalog; white slacked women sipping Chardonnay while their suited up with loosened tie husbands consult their Blackberry’s under the shade of an umbrella. Jack Johnson strums in the background as the lifeguards slump in their chairs, half-hearted in their reprimands to the rowdy boys across the pool.
Jordan and I, feeling a bit more confident, plunk down in a corner of the pool to dip our toes into the water. A mix of easy conversation along with contented silence flow as we are memorized by the incandescent sunlight dance off the cyan water. A smile slides onto my face as I watch a carefree girl pirouette around the concrete, dancing with a combination of grace and abandon. We imagine the backstories of the different well dressed strangers we see gathered around the pool.
After a long pause in the conversation, Jordan looks up at me and says “I think if I could have any superpower right now, I would want to be able to step inside of someone else’s shoes and just know their reality.”
I let the idea sink in. “Best superpower ever,” I declare.
“I mean, do you ever think about how many people there are in the world? Each one has a reality and a story that is distinct to them. Those women,” she says, gesturing behind me,” “Over there. Don’t you just wonder what their history is, what fills their hearts and minds?”
“Yeah! I have had that thought before! It’s a staggering thing to try to wrap your mind around!” I say. (I used to try and figure out the personalities of strangers I would pass on the street, often imagining unexpected quirks. The tattoo covered teen who loves listening to Chopin. The beefcake at the gym who has tea with his grandma every Tuesday.) After a few moments, I add “I think I would have a lot more compassion, if I had that superpower.”
“I mean, we often only see the side of people that they choose to present to us, or we interpret what we perceive in their actions and interactions, and form our own judgements or opinions based off of that. But if we could really glimpse who they are, unedited… I guess it wouldn’t be always be that pretty, but it would help explain why they are the way they are.”
I love being reminded of the truth of our humanity. To remember that we are all complex creatures, woven together with a myriad of experiences, relationships, painful wounds, and glorious victories. Daily we intersect with the stories of so many others. With what perspective are we choosing to see those around us?