The community in which I live is a small one. It is also where I grew up, so I have interacted with many of the people here throughout my life, as a child, a teenager and an adult. Often the impressions I developed of people in my childhood color my adult perspective in a way that causes me to judge them harshly. But it’s just that, a perspective, and when that perspective shifts, the world around you changes in profound ways.
Here is how one of those shifts happened for me. I recently observed a woman performing a service for a group of other women, myself included. The woman went about her task with great care. It was plain to see by the look on her face that she took her responsibilities very seriously and was going to great effort to see that she did her job to the best of her abilities. I had watched others perform the same task, but I don’t recall ever seeing anyone so focused and precise. Years ago this woman had been my teacher—or rather, my nemesis. She was strict and lacking compassion, wholly unconcerned with the angst of a teenage girl. Or so I thought—right up to the day that I watched her perform this service for me in such a meticulous way. In that moment I realized that the same care I was witnessing was exactly how she had gone about her teaching. She was always trying to do the best job she could.
Okay, so maybe she and I are not kindred spirits. We obviously did not connect on a successful teacher-student level. But that did not make her a bad teacher. The wrong teacher for me? Maybe. Yet, as I watched her, my perspective shifted and I did see her as a kindred spirit. I, too, wish to do the best I can in my endeavors and sometimes this makes people see me as controlling and perhaps lacking in graceful social skills. I learned that day that as an insecure teenager (and perhaps as an insecure adult) I was not looking at a person’s heart and true motive, but was judging them based on my own insecurities. Such a distorted lens does no one justice and it keeps us from realizing the deep connections we have with each other in this human experience.
It is springtime, a time for cleaning up and getting ready for fresh starts. Perhaps it is time to sweep out old opinions and prejudices and take a fresh look at the people and ideas around me with a cleaner and clearer perspective.