When my oldest son was a tow headed three year old, he was mesmerized by the magazine covers displayed at the grocery store checkout. As we waited with a basket full of food in a line of shoppers, he stood thigh high and stared with wide, blue eyes at the beautiful women looking back at him from the glossy covers.
"Mommy, which one do you think is the prettiest?" he asked.
"They're all pretty," I replied, taken aback by his early and keen interest in beautiful women. I thought for a moment. "But I wonder which one is kind." His eyes traveled from one magazine to the next as I continued, "And which one is smart. I wonder which one loves God."
"I think she's the prettiest," he said emphatically, oblivious to my prompts as his chubby finger led my eyes to the flawless model with blonde hair and a silver sequined dress.
"She is beautiful," I agreed. I paused, wondering how to make him to see beyond the superficial cover. "But I wonder if she's nice to her friends." He shrugged his shoulders while his eyes remained fixed.
Even then, as a young, idealistic mommy, I recognized the pitfalls of a cover without the benefit of the full story. All these years later, I see more clearly than ever that if we're not careful, we so easily fall prey to the superficial. With our propensity to go no deeper than the cover of someone's life, we hold the illusion that we know their story. We hear the latest rumor, the verbal version of a glossy cover, and think we understand someone's situation. We pass a homeless person and draw conclusions from a snapshot view. We meet an addict and lump him into a cover shot category without any notion of life events that hurled him into that consuming, downward spiral. We hear about a friend's struggling teenager and let our guesswork fill in the blanks, barely giving consideration to whether our assumptions are fair or accurate or compassionate.
No matter how beautiful or how ugly the cover, there is always a back story. Sometimes it's ours to read. Sometimes it's the story of private writings not intended for public eyes. Often it contains the unknown, the unexpected. Always the back story matters.
Beware of looking at the cover and assuming you know the full story. Beware of your own cover stories in life that distract you from looking more deeply at your own true story buried in the inky pages. Often we look outside to avoid dealing with what's inside, buried deep in our innermost pages. Beware, as I will, too. Ask probing questions of yourself and others and always look deeply. It's important we don't assume, we don't settle for the superficial in others and in ourselves, and that we seek deeper understanding because there is much more before us than just the glossy cover.
Peace, love and depth, Underdogs!