Monday, January 21, 2019

Two different perspectives

The other day I took Jonathan to the library after school. It's only a 10-minute walk away, and he likes to go there once or twice a week to take out some of his favourite DVDs like the Wiggles, Super Why, Barney, Blue's Clues, etc.

  To be honest, right now he is really more interested in collecting the DVDs than in watching them. So he spots his favourites on the shelf; we take them out; we return them (sometimes unwatched) when they're due; he takes them out again; and the cycle repeats.

Full disclosure: sometimes at the library he is loud. If he finds a DVD he wants, he raises his voice and excitedly looks around to find someone to share his enthusiasm with. If he can't find what he wants, he will sometimes complain with a loud "OH NO" or "GONE." But either way, whether they're excited sounds or frustrated sounds, we're only there for about ten minutes. If he's ever being extremely disruptive, I try to get him out more quickly, but most of the time it's not a problem. Occasionally someone looks our way, but no one's ever shushed us; the staff sometimes even greet Jonathan by name.

The other day we had found the DVDs we wanted and were sitting on a ledge getting ready to leave. Jonathan likes to name the DVDs one by one as we put them in my bag. As we were doing this, an older lady walked past. Jonathan said, "Hi! Hi!", wanting to share his excitement; she smiled, and I thought, now isn't she a nice person. 

And then she said, "So this is who's been making all the noise!" and left the library.

Nice person, all right.

A couple of days later I was talking to Jonathan's teacher on the phone. She'd called to tell me she would be moving to a different position for the second semester. And then she raved about Jonathan.

She said how funny, comfortable, and talkative he is in the classroom.

She said how much he likes hanging out with David, a boy in another program whom he used to know in elementary school -- just two teenage guys enjoying each other's company.

 She mentioned how he greets and engages people in the school so happily when he and his classmates are doing their coffee-cart duties.

She commented on what an enthusiastic, fast walker he is when their class goes on outings.

"He's just so great," she said. 

To the woman in the library, Jonathan was one thing only: "the one making all the noise."

To his teacher, he was funny, friendly, enthusiastic, happy, and "so great."

They were looking at the same person but saw totally different things -- kind of like this well-known optical illusion which, if looked at one way, shows a young girl, but if looked at another way, shows an old woman with a wart on her nose.

This was such a good reminder for me, because I get frustrated with Jonathan myself at times -- maybe I focus too much on what he can't do or won't do or hasn't yet learned to do -- and lose perspective on all the amazing things that make him who he is. 

I guess we all do that sometimes. We all need to be reminded that people are not one-dimensional, and that if our perspective is too narrow we may end up missing something important. The woman in the library missed out because she just saw someone making noise; she didn't take time to see the whole picture and share, even for an instant, in Jonathan's enjoyment. I feel sorry for her. 

And as for his teacher: even if she isn't going to be his teacher anymore, it's good to know that while she was, she really saw him -- the whole person -- and appreciated him.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Five Minute Friday: INFLUENCE

Today I'm linking up with the Five Minute Friday community, writing for five minutes on a given prompt.

This week's word is INFLUENCE.

Not long ago I saw a short video on Facebook, presented by a behavioural consultant, about three ways to spot the most (or least) influential person in the room. They were:

1. Who does the boss look at most? The person the leader looks at most frequently probably has a lot of influence over that leader, and therefore over the group as a whole.

2. Who do most people in the group look at when everyone is laughing? The group may be checking out the influential person's reaction (is that person laughing too? or are they stone-faced, arms crossed?) so they can adjust their own to fit.

3. Who seems to be seeking approval the most? This one is the opposite of the other two because it indicates the least influential person in the room: that person may be nodding and smiling too much out of insecurity or an attempt to please.

I find it interesting that this video doesn't say why we would want to determine who the most influential people are. I guess there could be lots of reasons: maybe we want to find the person most likely to help us further our agenda or make our dream a reality. Maybe we want to show an influential person how special or indispensable we can be to them, so that our own influence will increase (sort of like #1 above). Maybe we just like the safety -- or the reflected glory -- of being close to someone special and important. But the video doesn't say. The presenter just seems to assume that we want to know who the influencers are.

It made me smile when I tried to imagine what Jesus would do with a topic like this. When he walked the earth as a human being, he seemed so uninterested in who the movers and shakers were.

He drew attention to the poor woman who (either out of generosity or government obligation or both) put the few coins she possessed in the treasury.

He said that the poor in spirit, the mourners, and the meek were blessed.

He declared that humble prayers in a closet and good deeds behind the scenes were better than pompous prayers on the street corner and showy acts of charity.

He chose a motley crew of fishermen, tax collectors, and freedom fighters to be in his inner circle.

Philippians 2 says that "Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, and being found in human likeness, he humbled himself..." 

That's a far cry from "Jesus realized that in order to get things done he should seek out the most influential people and get them on-board with his mission in order to maximize his effectiveness."

When it comes to Jesus' upside-down kingdom, we probably shouldn't spend too much time focusing on the influencers. The things that really matter are probably happening well out of the spotlight.

Monday, January 14, 2019

January 2019 Quick Lit: what I've been reading

Today I'm joining Modern Mrs. Darcy for her monthly Quick Lit linkup, where we share short reviews of what we've been reading. Since my last book post (which listed everything I read in 2018), I've read three nonfiction books.

Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts by Brene Brown. 
This is the latest by the bestselling author of Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, and other books -- all of which address issues of shame, vulnerability, wholeheartedness, and courage. In this book Brown's focus is leadership, and while many of her examples and anecdotes are from the corporate setting, the principles are applicable to any situation where we work with others to accomplish tasks and strive to foster and maintain a culture of empathy, trust, and openness. 

Brown's work can at times seem a little repetitive because she deliberately reviews and builds on principles from previous books. I also get impatient sometimes with the terminology she creates like "rumbling" and "key learnings" -- but when she gives real-life examples that flesh these concepts out (often based on her own mistakes and misunderstandings), I always find them relevant and memorable. I particularly appreciated her chapter on values, where she encourages readers to zero in on their two primary values and examine whether their actions reflect those values. Overall I really enjoyed this and always take away something valuable from her writing.


Educated by Tara Westover.  
In this gripping memoir, Westover recounts her life growing up on an Idaho mountainside as the daughter of survivalist Mormon parents. Distrustful of government and full of end-times paranoia, her parents forbade their children to attend school and lived in isolation, stockpiling food, fuel, and ammunition in preparation for doomsday. Westover spent years working in her father's scrapyard, enduring emotional and physical abuse from her father and one of her brothers, until she was able to leave home and attend Brigham Young University and eventually Cambridge and Harvard. She details her complex and painful relationships with various family members, her struggle to affirm her womanhood, and the challenge of telling one's own story in the face of others' conflicting versions. Excellent book.


White Picket Fences: Turning Toward Love in a World Divided By Privilege by Amy Julia Becker. 
In this thoughtful book, Becker explores the concept of privilege by discussing many different aspects of her own life: her wealthy, secure upbringing in North Carolina (with black household staff); her experiences as a mother of a child with Down Syndrome; her discovery that what we call "answered prayers" may have more to do with privilege and connection than with "God's blessing"; her exploration of how people of colour are (or are not) depicted in children's books; her attempts to pray and fast for healing across political divides; and more.

Toward the end Becker says, "I now understand two things about privilege that I didn't understand before. One, that privilege in and of itself is not a sign of God's blessing but rather a fact of my life that can be used for good or ill. Two, that what our culture calls privilege is a mirage, a false understanding of what it means to live a good life, and that the true privilege of my existence comes in the undeserved favor I have in being one who is loved by God, loved by others, and able to love in return." Thought-provoking and beautifully written.


What have you been reading lately? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Epiphany 2019 - three haiku

Three haiku for Epiphany: 

entering the house
we looked round, wondering where
the King of kings was

we gazed at the Child
whose eyes danced with light, just like
the star we'd followed

we worshipped, gave gifts --
then we went back home by an
unfamiliar road