This weekend I went back to Warwick, revisiting my University days. I say that as if they were 18 years ago, not 18 months. That weird sense of timelessness we all feel hit me, living memories I’d long forgotten as if they happened yesterday. They weren’t even ‘amazing’ memories, but just the happy reminders of going to the pub after choir rehearsal, baking with my bestie and Ellen constantly making tea for me. My university days weren’t crazy but all those little things made an awesome experience.
I hadn’t realised the wave of reminiscing would hit me so hard. As much as I’m happy and excited for all my buddies going out in the world and carving careers and families for themselves, it made me sad that we’re all dispersed. It made me sad I’d forgotten just how many incredible friends I had there.
Too often we get trapped in the day to day business of living, working, shopping, cooking, washing up that we forget where we’ve already come in life. I’ve forgotten the pain of my Dad dying, being heckled at the school talent show and facing up to my sexuality. Instead I’ve absorbed it. It’s all parts of my past that I don’t recall that often or tell everyone about. That in itself is what we need to remember: we all have pasts and extraordinary experiences that we absorb. We all suffer pain and grief.
When I was home in Southend a couple of weeks ago I heard about a painful time my Dad had gone through, pain that I’d never heard about for the 18 years we were both alive. Amidst celebrating my brothers’ engagements, I had this pang of regret and guilt, that parts of my Dad’s life are unknown to me. But why would he have told me about every pain?
God calls us to live a life of compassion (Colossians 3:12). That doesn’t mean we need know what someone is going through. You can’t know what anyone else is going through, because they’ve already got a different past and different life. We just need to understand that bad experiences are exactly that. Then we can stand side by side and in solidarity with them, whether it’s with displaced people in Colombia or families who are grieving because of cancer.