Just a vague thought.
I was talking with a barrista about art and realized that I didn't know my mother for a long time.
Yes, she gave birth to me and I lived with her for years, depending on her for my food, health and security. But I didn't know her. It wasn't until I moved away and didn't see her for a while that I began to know her.
I knew what she was like a Mom, knew what to expect when I misbehaved, knew how she would reward me, and what would anger her and make her happy within momhood's narrow straights.
How cool of a Mom was she, how 'good' a Mom? Access to benchmarks were limited. Other Moms inhabited the neighborhood - I think 99% of the houses had at least one, and some Mom's Moms were living with them, increasing the number of Moms in those houses to two. Lots of Mom.
But I saw little of them, heard little of them. Amazingly, many wore similar clothing styles and hair styles. Young Moms had Nancy Sinatra hairstyles. Moms in their thirties were influenced by Connie Francis, and older mothers had buffants and beehives.
Moms were quite similar in their behavior. They called their children home, were polite but friendly when talking with other children. All were part of the neighborhood's authorities, breaking up fights, tending crying children even when they weren't their own, protecting property and teaching manners. Few Moms of my childhood neighborhood worked outside the home.
After looking around and encountering other Moms, Mom was just another Mom. Later, I affixed that with further descriptors: Mom was just another white, suburban, lower middle class Mom from lower middle class beginnings. At that point, I didn't think much about her life outside of being Mom. As far as her position as a woman or person, I only had sales people and teachers as other points of comparision. In restrospect, I knew little about the sales people and just a little more about the teachers. They were teachers, and like the Moms, they wore a certain style of clothes. My school featured a few Jewish teachers but no black teachers, although we had black students. We were mostly white, descended from Irish, English and Germans, mostly Protestants and Catholics. We had a Greek student and a Chinese student, that I recall, and a few Polish students, who naturally aggressively defended their Polish roots. Who knows what was going on in all those people's lives and homes? I was clueless.
Later, as I met other women and encountered Moms as my adult contemporaries in venues outside of homes, like parties, I discovered there was a lot more to Moms. They were women, and people. And I discovered my Mom was more intelligent than I realized, and that all Moms are not naturally intelligent; not all cared about what happens to their children. Some cared but weren't in situations to do much about it, although they tried hard.
But just as my experience with Mom was limited because I saw her only as Mom, my experience with barristas and other people is limited. I usually only know one or two facets of people. The facets I 'know' aren't usually the important ones, and when I look into that facet, I see more of myself than I see of them.
This applies to writing, too. The reader may not necessarily know everything about the characters that you know. You decide, through the story, what facets to show, and how much you'll let them glitter. Then, sometimes, when the moment is right, another facet is exposed, creating insight and complications.
So it is with the people we meet, and those we see and never meet, like many homeless people. We're only see one facet. We should try to keep that in mind with dealing with them. Other facets may reveal lives we've never imagined or wished onto our darkest characters.
You never know.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com