Friday, August 06, 2010

A Matter of Perspective

I received a frantic call from my husband last evening. Craig called on his drive home to tell me how much damage had been done in our neighborhood. He shared how traffic was at a standstill and trees were everywhere. I looked out my office window as we spoke and saw a lot of rain but nothing that looked too severe.

When I got home last night, approaching our neighborhood, I saw trees everywhere. In every lawn in our tree-filled neighborhood lied large trees and huge branches. There were trees everywhere - blocking sidewalks, stairs and streets. I have never seen anything like it. Seeing was believing. I fully understood what Craig was concerned about the moment I saw it with my own eyes.

How many times do we take time to see things with our own eyes? How many times do we place aside our own thoughts and opinions on the situation or concerns expressed by another person in order to see the weight of the matter?

We have started a journey to racial reconciliation with a neighboring United Methodist Church in downtown Washington. We have had three sessions and are now anticipating a fall Bible study and conversation composed of people from Asbury and Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Churches in addition to our partners at Wesley Theological Seminary. We are just getting started, but I have already had my eyes refocused. My eyes, mind and heart are already seeing a perspective they did not see before.

I learned a few weeks ago the pain that one of my colleagues experienced when she lived across the street from a hospital in Washington - a hospital that she was not allowed to enter even when a relative was choking. I have learned about the pain of passing certain department stores in downtown Washington - stores that sold beautiful things that only a certain shade of person could purchase. I have learned the perceptions of our church - the lure of a chapel whose doors were open all the time but nonetheless seemed accessible to individuals at a church of the same denomination less than two blocks away. And, I learned this week the pain associated with newer developments at Mount Vernon Place.

I now see things differently. I see how my words or actions could be misinterpreted. I see how important it is for me to listen more fully. I see how important and hard the work of reconciliation can be.

What does it take for us to see things through the eyes of another? To seek to understand what it is like to be in the minority? To seek to understand the loneliness in the life of a recent widow or a new resident of the city? To pursue an appreciation for someone else's job responsibilities - to seek to understand the weight of a change in office dynamics or the team? To want to hear what is happening or has happened in the life of another that causes them to react the way the do today? How is it that we gain an understanding heart - one that does not look out the window and say, "I have no idea what he's worried about. It's barely raining here!" How is it that we get to the place where we do not say, "Get over it! Racism is a thing of the past and not prevalent today" and instead say, "Help me to better see what your life is like."

I had no idea that yesterday's storm was so bad. It did not look bad from my office window. But when I switched locations and moved to a different place, I understood. The storm - yesterday's storm - was really, really bad.


Fellow Washingtonian said...

Thank you for your perspective. Some people live in well-kept apartment buildings, never have to worry about mowing the lawn or cleaning up after a storm, or taking care of a car that got hit by a tree limb, may tend to lose their perspective of what goes on with others. Worse is, they knock the city for being wimpy when it comes to dealing with storms.

cheryl said...

Thanks for your reminder to walk in someone else's shoes - to see someone's else hard perspective.

I was watching something yesterday on tv where the person said - you never know who may be standing next to you in the grocery store with so much pain in them... this may be a bit off-topic, but I think it's extending grace to others and imagining what their life must be like and not assuming that you think you know.

Jerry Roberson said...

Hmm. Methinks "Fellow Washingtonian" may be a Facebook friend of mine ... but not brave enough to sign their name.

Thank you, Donna, for the continued wise words, and I'm honored to know my FB posting (or rant) helped prompt the blog topic.