It’s good for the heart to put some effort into seeing the world from different angles.
Posted in May 18, 2016
My son Stephen and I went sailing on the Hudson River this weekend. I've gone on the Staten Island Ferry and in water taxis, with guests on the Circle Line. Yet in 30 years here, I'd never been sailing before. Somehow the Island of Manhattan's waterways have always seemed defined by the city, rather than the other way around.
Until you are out in the middle of the Hudson, that is. There the city looks different. The world smells different. Even the air feels different. Looking at familiar parks and buildings from the water is like peering into my life through the eyes of others. The places I know best aren't all that obvious. And the landmarks that appear most prominent are relatively insignificant in my daily life.
I find it's good for my heart to put some effort into seeing the world from different angles. Mostly I do this on the subway or on line at the grocery (for in case you didn't know, New Yorkers stand "on line," not in one). It makes me more human to let my mind wander and wonder what others' lives are like. Did she just get a raise? What was his father like when he was a child? What did she fight about with her spouse last week? Why is that man weary? Who did the young man vote for in the primary, and why?
I'm far more likely to guess wrong than right, of course. It doesn't matter, for half the point of the exercise is to remind me that I don't really know anything about this other person. So if that large man steps on my toe it may be because he's thoughtless... or because his child is dying of cancer. I can't leap to conclusions. I have to stay open to the possibility that what I see is a function of where I am and who I am.
God asks me to respond to others, rather than react to them. That takes a different perspective, as different to me as seeing Manhattan from the Hudson.