Persons appear to us according to the light we throw upon them from our own minds.Laura Ingalls Wilder
Truthfully, I’ve been keeping my mouth shut the past couple weeks. Much has been said and done and I don’t feel like my saying anything would be profitable to the general conversation. And through it all, I chose to read, watch, and listen rather than be in the midst of it. Partly my personality but also because sometimes you can learn more by doing those things rather than jumping in.
People are asking questions and having conversations they’ve never had or perhaps needed to have again. They’re analyzing and questioning their motives, ideas, opinions, and convictions. People are actually thinking critically, something I feel like we don’t do anymore.
There’s a desire to see things from a different perspective. People are looking beyond themselves and are pursuing understanding what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. In a time and culture where it’s about individualism, being known, and making your mark in the world, we’re seeing people lose focus of self and instead working to uphold others.
Y’all, this is significant.
We walk around too lost in ourselves, in comparison, in creating a life in the real world and one in the virtual of social media. We focus too much on what we have to offer the world and not what others have to offer. We’ve lost focus on community, where it’s the input and appreciation of everyone to create and maintain a society.
I enjoy getting to know people and hearing their stories which is rather ironic because I’m such an introvert. Talking to people is not my forte. But, I’ve been working on pushing myself more to show my interest in others and ask questions. My mother is amazing at this. There’s a running joke in our family that my mom doesn’t know a stranger. In fact there’s even a story that’s been told numerous times of how she and my dad were going to the store and he dropped her off and waited. And waited. Later he found that she had been standing in the middle of an aisle with someone practically sobbing and pouring their life’s story out to her. I saw it happen firsthand when I took her on a work trip to check out a venue and the person we met told her about some significant life events. They even got teary and commented that they were surprised they shared all of it because it wasn’t something they shared to many, particularly people they had only just met. My mom never asks intrusive questions or pushes or anything. She’s just that way, people often find themselves telling her everything.
As much as I say my mom is just that way, which I think is true, I think she’s also cultivated much of what draws people to her. She’s genuinely interested in people. She wants to know their story. I think in conversation, people recognize this and see that she is actually interested in them and not just making conversation. She’s an eager learner. It makes her safe because she learns from all people, experiences, and backgrounds. I will be the first to say that I don’t always approach people in this manner.
But what if we did?
I can be terribly self-conscious in conversation. I gauge people and their reactions (in part because I like studying human behavior) so that I can get a sense of how to connect or just to plain figure them out. But in the midst of that, I worry about how I’m coming across. I can seem intense, or these days my mom brain makes me sound like I’m just plain dumb. But what if my approach was solely focused on learning about this life that has experienced life differently from me? Maybe I’ll find things in common but that’s not the same as hearing about their life through their eyes. Learning about how their experiences have shaped them.
What if I didn’t let people appear to me according to the light thrown on them from my mind but let them be their own light? And perhaps that light will illuminate things in me that I didn’t know, had forgotten, or need to be focused on again. Maybe that’s how we should be approaching all people.