I am sitting in my neighbor’s kitchen.
“It drives me crazy.” she says, “Why doesn’t he get rid of that broken-down shed? It’s just a pile of rotting wood.”
She is referring to another neighbor’s back yard. I’ve looked at that yard for thirty years. From my own window, I’ve never noticed his dilapidated shed. I’ve seen only a neatly trimmed lawn. From Valerie’s window however, the decaying wood is in plain sight. This street I thought I’d memorized does not look the same from this angle.
I see it differently now.
Most days, I walk my dog past a house that showcases several political signs in support of a candidate whom I oppose. Although I’ve not met the owner, his signs give me all the information I need to form an opinion.
Just as I’m about to move past his house, he opens an upstairs window and calls out, “Wait there. I’m coming down.” Assuming he intends to scold me for an HOA violation, I quickly continue along. A moment later, outside and coming toward me, he calls out again, “I have something for you.” He smiles and hands me a bag. “I always see you walking your dog, and I saved these soup bones for her.”
I see him differently now.
My grandmother is a harsh, no-nonsense woman. She lives a disciplined life with little room for emotion or affection. As a child, I was often upset by her lack of warmth and tenderness.
I am sitting with her sister who tells me of their childhood in a poor family with six children. “From the time she was in first grade, your grandma took care of us all. She walked us home from school, cooked, cleaned, put us to bed. Really, she was more like our mother.”
In an instant, I view her, not as my rigid grandmother, but as a young girl with responsibilities far too heavy for a child.
I see her differently now.
I am headed for the self-check lane at the grocery store when a cashier calls, “Come on up, I’m open.”
I have shopped at this store for years and know to avoid her lane. She’s a pleasant woman but moves at a snail’s pace. I begin to unload the cart, and much to my delight, she rapidly has everything scanned and bagged.
“Wow,” I remark, “you’re quick!”
She smiles, “Thanks – it goes much faster when I’m alone. I always have to scan so slowly when Nick is bagging for me. He can’t keep up, and I don’t want to overwhelm him.”
What I perceived as inefficiency was actually compassion
I see her differently now.
We attribute many characteristics to a person or situation based on one label, observation, or interaction. When we know one thing, we assume we know everything. But, that’s not true. We actually only know that one thing – all else is speculation. Our perspective in a specific moment does not give us the entire picture.
We would be wise to regularly audit our presumptions – to ask ourselves what we might have wrong. Perhaps, we will see things differently.