Give us a few links and we’ll complete the chain. Sketch a few shapes and we’ll fill in the picture. Hum a few bars and we’ll finish the song. Humans are designed to add the details so the story comes clearer. Even if it’s not the real story. Even if it’s not the right song or the intended picture. Our minds like wholeness and are so dissatisfied with the unfinished, we finish it.
The funny thing is, completion is so satisfying it will seem right even if it’s wrong. In fact, when we are shown the “real” facts of the case or the actual story line, we are surprised. Come on, I know he said that! We may even insist on reading the original work or listening to the recording to convince ourselves we are in error.
I find this fascinating, even as I find myself completely guilty. I complete the story with my version all the time. Jump to conclusions. Suppose the ending. Presume I know what that person is thinking or what he’s been planning or what motivates him. But I don’t. What I “know” is actually a creation. My mind has been filling in the blanks based on my information, my experiences, my know-how, my culture, my upbringing, my…everything. I make no apologies: this is how I am made. And so are we all. Created to complete the story. Our story.
This does get kind of comical when you’re a by-stander to a conversation where one person is trying to solve another person’s problem based on their own symptoms, their own treatment and their own outcome. We seek to be empathetic and we are trying hard to help or solve or correct, but we have filled in our own details and these may be very different from the facts of the case.
It is why testifying as a witness is such a tricky business. We believe what we’re saying but it just may not be true. It’s why speaking up without authority or diving in without full understanding is not fruitful and can be damaging. We are experts in our own lives and may be experts in our own fields, but this doesn’t mean we hold the solution to the problem.
I am reminded of this as today is World Malaria Day. A child dies of this preventable disease every 60 seconds, many thousands of them in Africa where our church has a hospital seeking to address this problem. That’s pretty much all I know. I do not know these children or their mothers. I don’t know what their homes look like, or even if they have homes. What I know is my own life, which is malaria free. So, what is the problem?
The problem is that a child dies every 60 seconds. Period. Just imagine what it must be like to hold a child who is dying from malaria. Who is suffering from attacks lasing 6-10 hours of chills and shaking followed by high fever, headaches and muscle pain. Imagine having no resources to comfort the child and no hope of curing them.
I can only imagine that dimly. I am very far away. But today I am trying to learn more about it so I can imagine it better. Because I suffer from a disease called nearsightedness. It can be treated with corrective lenses. These will help me see what is real and lend clarity to what might be done., including what I might do.
Nearsightedness, after all, is treatable. Shortsightedness is terminal. That cannot be how this story is meant to end.