A Matter of Perspective

Things are not always as they seem are they? We know this from experience. What we see and hear one time influences what we expect to see and hear the next time. What do I mean?

Have you ever been behind a car and it seems the couple in that car are having a a big fight? Animated arm movements, seemingly fierce glances, and enthusiastic speech and facial expressions. Certainly, anyone who observed that exchange would agree that they must be  fighting. And having a nasty one at that.

“Yeah, the last time I saw something like that she took her shoe off and beat the driver on the head with it till he let her out. This was almost identical to that, except there were no shoes flying, no beatings, and no doors opening. Otherwise it was really just the same.”

“Uh Huh. How did you get in here?”

Another perspective is obtained if you happen to be sitting in the car with Reverend and Mrs. Jones, and know they are actually singing along with Freddie Mercury and Queen performing Bohemian Rhapsody, their favorite song of all time. While you might disagree that “singing”  is the proper term, since the sweet couple married for 35 years sing like a herd of scalded cats, it is the act of singing and celebrating their favorite song that they are engaged in.  While painful to the ears, the intent was never to fight, though you couldn’t tell it from behind. See my point? Your perspective is different from that of the person in the same car who knows more details.

“Wow Bagman, O wise and frighteningly insightful. Can you give another example?

“Certainly”.

You are at WalMart and you see a parent with three small kids trailing behind the cart full of food, all whining, each wanting something different and all unhappy when they aren’t getting it yesterday. You, as the “my kids would never get away with that” person, are annoyed by the noise and “shameless display by those bratty children”. Your eyes roll back in your head and you sigh in disgust, waiting for your yogurt and healthy food choices to scan across the conveyor so you can escape the asylum that is WalMart.

“Have you seen the people that shop there, after all? Good Heavens!”

You may not realize that the parent of these three little angels may be having a really busy day and are trying to get the last of the fixings for a going away meal for the spouse about to be deployed to the middle east. The last concern is how the kids are behaving in WalMart. It’s “will I see him/her again? Usually, this parent is right on top of any misbehavior, but today those kids can get away with  more, much to the distress of those around who aren’t dealing with such things.

Why do I bring this up? I think we are a bit quick to judge and we put people into categories based on appearance and behavior without knowing the real story.

“Why did he end up homeless, despite a PhD and storied military career?”

” How did she end up on the streets?”

” How does a person making x number of dollars a year live in a run down little place like that?”

” Must be drugs, right? Maybe they are illegal aliens? ”

Who knows, but more importantly, why is it our role to make that judgement?

In my profession I have encountered people from all walks of life, all faiths, and cultures. Being human, I have made unjustified presuppositions about them because of where they came from and my limited knowledge about their circumstances. I admit when I was young I made jokes that were inappropriate and took part in ridicule and activities I would not dream of today since I feel like I know better now. I believe that ignorance = lack of knowledge and experience that enlightens us over time. A person can be ignorant regarding a subject but learn more and then not be ignorant of it later. A phrase I heard growing up is “You can change ignorant but you can’t fix stupid”, meaning those who don’t want to learn will never learn and will stay stupid by choice. Another phrase I heard alot was “I hate stupid people”. I still tend to agree with that  one, though “hate” is certainly not a pc term these days. “Strongly dislike” perhaps?.

Granted, I am willing to bet that most of the time, those kids at WalMart are just brats and the parents are just lazy and terrible people, but that’s just a matter of perspective. Or I am I just being stupid?

So what am I saying? Exercise a little patience. If you have the chance, buy dinner for a homeless guy at McDonalds like I did last week and listen to his story. Don’t be so quick to judge. You might be surprised how a couple of events in your life could land you in the same place. Count your blessings that you have not ended up there and be  grateful for where you are, regardless of where that is, for there is always someone else in worse shape than you are.THAT is also a matter of perspective.

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