My daughter Grace and I were out one afternoon in search of a treat to soothe our sweet craving. The road we were traveling down is a road we find ourselves on often. It’s a two-lane road in the city. Parked cars are lined down one side of the street in front of their owners’ homes; there are duplexes, apartments and single family homes. On the other side of the road stand a few homes, but most of the land is occupied by tennis courts, a playground, a community center and pool and just as you reach the top of the hill, a large shopping complex. During the daylight hours, the road is abuzz with people walking and playing, cars being parked, and vehicles traveling to their destinations. There is plenty to get distracted by and plenty to observe.
It was Father’s Day and just as we came to the top of the hill, we noticed a group of people step off the sidewalk, move behind the back of the car and begin to venture toward the door of the vehicle. Grace and I both began to speak simultaneously. I said, “Oh, that is so sweet – that older man is gently leading that young adult blind man to put him in the car and he is being very vigilant.” Grace was sharing, “Oh how sweet – that young man has a hold of his grandfather’s arm and is making sure he doesn’t step out in traffic.” We both began to question what the other just proclaimed and politely refuted our different observations.
“No, no, that was absolutely a blind man being led by his grandfather. “No, he was being protected by his grandson from all the traffic.” After a few different variations of the above statements we agreed to disagree about the scene we had witnessed. But here’s the thing: it was still the same two people with a group of people behind them entering the road. There are only a few things we definitely know: the two who caught our eye were both males, they were both African American, one was grandfather-age and one was a young adult, the young adult was holding on to the arm of the older man, and they were getting in a car. Other than that we really don’t know anything else about the situation. We only have our perceptions. And clearly, one of our viewpoints was distorted or maybe even both of them were out of focus.
In life, we all have different perceptions. Not just in the casual observer situations, but the day- to -day interpersonal stuff. With our spouses, children, friends, co-workers, really just about anyone we have a personal relationship or casual contact with, we analyze and view situations differently. We size up people and circumstances based on our own history (or some would say baggage), our mood at the moment, the stress in our life, our own hurts and insecurities, our pride and our selfishness- the reasons behind our contrasting perceptions go on and on.
In life we will always have situations we see differently from others. And it is okay. We don’t always have to agree completely, understand every single detail or even draw the same conclusions. There is a great big world out there and the stories we share and each of our unique perceptions make it an exciting place to live.