If there was one thing all humankind shared regardless of race, status, religion, sexual orientation, etc., I think it would be suffering. We’ve all suffered in some way. To put an exact definition on what that means is pretty simple, “to be subjected to/experience something bad or unpleasant”. Fair enough. How we deal with our shared human experience, is our own.
You could look at suffering as a canvas. Your initial response to your bad or unpleasant experience paints the first stroke. You can continue in that fashion, but I think as time goes on the “colors” and “types of strokes” you’re painting may change. You might eventually throw the canvas out once you decide you’re “over it” and have moved past this experience. If you are suffering something major (and that level is for only you to decide), that particular canvas may stay with you. It may become a part of you and a piece of art, if you will.
The same suffering can be/is often shared by more than one person. For example, you’re a just turned 18 year old girl. Your godfather/uncle commits suicide by way of shotgun 3 weeks before your high school graduation. At first, you don’t know how to process it. You’re confused, you’re angry, you’re feeling selfish because you heard he had something big planned for your graduation but you don’t think that was it and now you’ll never know. You see your father cry for what must be only the second time in your life; the first being a few weeks earlier when the 15 year old family dog died. This is big. But you’re 18. You’re graduating, going to college, in a relationship- life is happening and you need to live it. So you do and though you’ve painted that canvas a little bit, you put it aside. Time goes on. You can see what this is doing to other people, namely your father. You realize he feels guilty because the gun used was one that belonged to him. Everyone keeps saying it has to be some kind of accident, Dean was always happy- the last person you’d suspect to be dealing with demons. Maybe he was cleaning it and there was an accident- somehow. Yet in the back of your mind, you wonder. You count all the years he’d come visit for various hunting seasons and how many times you watched him and your dad clean guns after without any accident and you know that he knew how to handle a gun. You wish it was an accident, but you’ll never know for sure. And you have doubts. And you feel guilty about these doubts- so you paint some more on this canvas. Anniversaries roll around and all of a sudden you’re coming up on 8 years since he’s been gone. It’s harder to picture his face, hear his voice, and remember the little things. You know what you do remember? You remember someone who never forgot Christmas, Valentines, birthdays. You remember someone who always brightened the room. You remember the green Dodge Dakota and the black lab named Bear and how excited you were when they pulled into the driveway. You wish those kind of memories were the only ones you had- the good, pure ones. But there’s one more. One that never fades, no matter how much time has passed. You remember being in a new relationship. You remember the last time he came to visit your family and you went out to dinner right when he got to town- you remember leaving right after dinner to go hang out with your boyfriend and that’s it. You can’t remember if you even said good-bye when he headed back home or if you even saw him the rest of the weekend. And you live with that every day. So you paint some more on the canvas. As the time and anniversaries have rolled by, you keep hearing the sadness in your dad’s voice. You know the birthday fishing trips aren’t the same for your dad without your uncle Dean. You know every day your dad feels like there was some significance to the gun choice, but you don’t know his internal suffering. You don’t know exactly what his canvas looks like, just like he doesn’t know what yours looks like. You just know that you both have suffered, together, yet on your own, and with other members of family and you each have painted your own canvas.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: keep in mind when you meet people, you can’t see their canvas. If they show you a glimpse of it, pay attention. Appreciate them opening up to you. Nobody should assume they “own the market” on suffering because they’ve experienced a lot of deep, intense suffering because nobody can judge what other people have felt. This little glimpse of suffering I’ve shared with you might not seem like a lot compared to what you’ve gone through, but it’s changed my whole life and this canvas will be with me forever. Literally and figuratively. I choose the canvas imagery for a couple reasons but one of them being that I have chosen to wear some of my suffering in the form of tattoos. I see the reminder of this particular “bad or unpleasant experience” every day. I feel it every day. The man it memorializes shaped me into the person I am today, both while he was alive and after he passed. I try to make it a point to tell people I appreciate them, I’m thankful to know them, I love them, etc. because I took for granted the chance I had with him and assumed I’d get the chance to do it the next time I saw him and I don’t want to make that mistake again.
Make sure the people you care about know you care about them, you never know if they are suffering and need to hear it, or if something else will happen and you won’t get the chance again. Be conscious of other people’s suffering, as well as your own. It might be the one thing (love could be argued here) that ties all 6+ billion of us together and we all walk with a portfolio of different canvases.