I was digging through my files the other day, looking for something I wrote a long time ago. Before I found it, I came across something else from long ago that I thought I’d share with you today, since it seems even more relevant and appropriate now than when I first wrote it. It was first published in the Chanhassen Villager on December 2, 2004, and reprinted in 2016 in my book, Find Your Buried Treasure—Nuggets Mined from Everyday Life. I hope it gives you some food for thought.

People can really be a puzzle. By that I don’t mean they’re confusing, although they can be that, too, especially if they are teenagers or members of the opposite sex.

What I’m talking about is more like a jigsaw puzzle, where every piece is a little different from every other one, even though they all have the same basic structure. Each piece is as important and necessary as every other one in the puzzle, whether it’s an edge piece, a corner, or one of those annoying little wavy pieces that won’t stay where it belongs until it’s connected to all the other ones around it.

Connecting the pieces is not always easy. Sometimes it’s hard to find two pieces that will fit together at all. Or it may be difficult to believe that two particular pieces even belong to the same puzzle, because they seem so different from each other. Sometimes you try forcing pieces together that look like they should fit, but don’t. Other times you might find pieces that don’t look like they belong together, but turn out to be a perfect fit.

People can be like that, too.

A friend of mine brought this up recently, after having a conversation with someone about a mutual friend of theirs. They were discussing how long they had known each other and where they had first met, and my friend used the jigsaw puzzle analogy to point out how people can be connected to each other through a number of other people.

I like that comparison, and not because I’ve always enjoyed putting jigsaw puzzles together. Instead, I think it’s because there’s something we could all learn from this if we’d just stop to think about it for a minute. It’s not really about people or puzzle pieces fitting together. It’s not even about finding where we belong in relation to each other. It’s simply realizing that we do belong, and that we’re all part of the same big picture – even if we can’t always see it, and even when we don’t have any idea how, where, or why we’re connected to other people whose looks, beliefs, accents, and politics are so different from our own.

Maybe we should all start thinking of ourselves and each other as pieces of a puzzle – a really big puzzle. If we did that, we might be better able to see and remember that every one of us is as valuable as every other. Even though some have more prominent roles, like the corners that anchor the rest of the pieces together, it takes everyone – working side by side and holding on to each other – to put the picture together the way it’s supposed to be.

I’m going to try to remember this whenever I come across other pieces of the puzzle that don’t seem to fit, or to belong in the same one I’m in. I’ll accept that they’re simply in a different section of the puzzle, or they make up a different part of the scenery. We may be at opposite ends of the big picture, or a few rows apart. Either way, it’s important for all of us to be there.

So maybe people aren’t so puzzling after all. We simply need to figure out how and where we all fit together. Or we just need to remember that we do.

August 2, 2019
©Betty Liedtke, 2019

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