If you don’t know me, great. But if you do, pretend you don’t. Now, when you look at this picture, tell me, what do you see?
Laughter? Goofiness? Love perhaps? Maybe even happiness?
Let me tell you what I know.
In this picture was a family falling apart. A family under tremendous pressure. A woman whose past had such a strong hold on her that it was failing her future. A man contemplating leaving his family because he didn’t know any other way out of his pain. A little girl, so innocent and so full of life, completely oblivious to the hurt around her.
I had posted this picture before when blogging about the holidays. I deliberately let the image do most of the talking because I couldn’t. I kept the shadows in the dark, where I thought they belonged.
Then we sought help and worked hard to overcome our troubles. And though it was a tumultuous ride, we survived. We are now happier and stronger than we’ve ever been. Yet when I look back at the pictures, without context, without remembrance, I am struck by how little of that pain the laughing faces revealed.
In a world ruled by images – whether on Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Foursquare, you name it – this picture is a humbling reminder that what we see is not always what we get. Most of the images that reach us are carefully curated by those who share them. We see what they want us to see, and even then, it’s just a sliver of a larger story – one to which we are not privy.
This also means that before I judge or envy, I have to remember that pictures of beaming children on manicured lawns and weddings in exotic islands and families on road trips are only that: Pictures.
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