Tag Archive | different perspectives

Your Perspective?

Floey at wetland
Yesterday morning my dog Floey and I went for a long walk and a long talk. It was already a hot day, but I figured if we walked on country roads rather than sidewalks, we might catch a little breeze. I was right. As soon as we turned off Water Street onto Highland Drive the setting was just right. The birds were singing, the frogs were croaking, and the red-winged blackbird that greets us most mornings landed on the tallest cattail and began her usual chatter. We stopped for a moment to feel the breeze and listen to the bird songs, and then continued ambling south on Highland.

Red-winged Blackbird on cattailFloey looked up at me and said, “Hey, Mom, there’s something I want to talk about. Something serious.”

“Okay,” I replied. “What’s on your mind?”

“You were really mad at me last night, weren’t you. You yelled at me twice.”

“I guess I did, Floey. I’m sorry, but I had reasons to be angry and to speak harshly to you. The first time was when Peggy and Buddy came over for a visit. You really pounced on Buddy. You could have hurt him. He’s smaller than you, older than you, and has a bad back.”

“I know, Mom. But I was so excited to see him and I wanted to play. I really like Buddy. He’s the best little white dog I know. I would never hurt him.”

“You wouldn’t hurt him intentionally, but sometimes, if you’re not careful, it can happen. Like the second time I yelled at you, after Buddy and Peggy were gone, and we went out for a little walk before going to bed. You really hurt me, Floey.”

“No, I didn’t. I wasn’t even near you. You just started to yell at me. I have no idea why.”

“Did you forget what you did as we went out the door? You charged after a rabbit. I wasn’t even through the door yet. You jerked on your leash so hard that my hand banged into the door frame. The back of my hand and my first finger are still swollen and have turned black and blue. As soon as we got back in the house I put an ice pack on it for half an hour. We’re lucky none of the little bones in my hand and fingers were broken.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Mom. I had no idea you were hurt. I was just trying to protect you from that big rabbit that was close to jumping onto the front porch. Fortunately I was able to chase him away. I’m sorry you were hurt in the process. Are you still mad at me? I would never try to hurt you.”

“No, Floey, I’m not still mad at you. But I think it’s good you wanted to talk with me about this. Obviously, we have different perspectives on what happened last night. I now see, from your perspective, you were warmly welcoming your good friend Buddy to our house and inviting him to play with you – and I yelled at you. Then you chased away a rabbit to protect me from him – and I yelled at you again.”

Buddy“That’s right, Mom,” Floey replied. “And from your perspective, you were trying to protect Buddy from getting hurt, so you yelled at me, and later, I accidentally hurt your hand when I chased away that rabbit, and you yelled at me again. I’m sorry. But now I understand.”

“You know, Floey, perspective is a funny thing. We can always see everything that happens to us from our own perspective, but often that’s not the whole picture. We need to try to understand other perspectives as much as we can.”

“That’s for sure. If we hadn’t had this little talk, I still wouldn’t understand why you yelled at me last night. Now I know, and my feelings aren’t hurt any more.”

“Good, Floey. While we’re talking about perspective, let me tell you about an email I received a couple days ago. It was about my last blog post, What Can I do? Remember, it’s the one where I talked about children being taken away from their parents at the US/Mexico border.”

51smFhUIbL._SX322_BO1204203200_“I remember it,” Floey said. “It’s the one where you talked about Ellen Finn’s book, Emotional Witness. That book was scary. I’m sure glad we don’t have to live in Honduras where there’s so much violence.”

“The email I received was from Tim, the husband of an old friend of mine from our Chicago days. He was pretty upset with me about writing that blog post.”

“Why was he upset, Mom? It was sad to read about all the violence in Central America, but you shared some good ideas about how we individually can support at least one or two children to be sure they have food, clothing, education, and so on. Was Tim really mad at you for writing about this?”

“Yes, I think he was, Floey. You see, he’s a world traveler and avid bicyclist. He’s been to Honduras several times. A few years ago he took a solo bicycle trip from Mexico City to Costa Rica. During that trip he spent several weeks in Copan, Honduras. In his 4-page email to me,  Tim wrote:

The reasons for writing this are to give another opinion about Copan. The town is struggling and needs more tourism. Would a foreigner who is contemplating a first visit to Central America consider Honduras or Copan after reading Ellen’s book or your blog post? Highly unlikely…. During my 2015 solo bicycle tour through Honduras, en route from Mexico City to Costa Rica, I neither experienced nor witnessed any violence. I had expected to at least hear gunshots, but did not. 

“From Tim’s perspective, Ellen’s book and my blog post may actually hurt the people of Honduras by discouraging tourism rather than helping anyone.”

IMG_2265Floey looked up at me and said, “I think I can see his point, Mom. I know I wouldn’t want to travel to Honduras. I’d be afraid of getting shot.”

“I don’t think I’d like to go there for a vacation, either. But remember our friends Liz and James go to Copan almost every year to visit the kids they support. They love the trip. They have found safe places to stay and really enjoy their visits. From their perspective as tourists, they feel safe.”

“Hey, Mom. There’s that word PERSPECTIVE again. Ellen’s perspective of life in Honduras is quite different from Tim’s.” 

“You’re right, Floey. I’m sure the people living in small villages in the mountains of Honduras have a different perspective on life in Honduras than wealthier people living in the larger cities and more prosperous suburbs, or from tourists traveling through the country. Another very important part of the whole picture is the perspective of Honduran immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. Many of them see the violence in their homeland as unbearable.”

“Life sure is complicated, isn’t it, Mom.”

“This conversation has taken us a long way from our different perspectives on why I yelled at you last night.”

LADxC%rGSY+gK%%cnDLrPg“It sure has. I’m glad we talked about perspectives. I learned that one perspective rarely provides the whole picture. I need to remember to try to see other perspectives as well as my own if I really want to understand what’s happening.”

“That’s right, Floey. Maybe when we get home from this long walk and long talk, I’ll bring up Tim’s blog about his bicycle tour of Central America, to try to see more of his perspective on this part of the world. I took a peek at it yesterday, and he includes lots of beautiful pictures along with his narrative.” 

https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=1mr&doc_id=15328&v=qE

“Great! That will be fun to see, especially with lots of pictures.”

We continued on our walk in silence for a while. Then Floey added, “Hey, Mom, do you think the need to understand different perspectives applies to all our political differences, too? Like, lots of people hate Trump and all his policies. Other people love him and everything he does. I know people on both sides. Can a complete understanding of any issue ever come about by really trying to understand both sides?”

“I don’t know, Floey. But the first step is to be willing to listen to the other side. I don’t think most people are even near the first step yet. And I don’t know how to get there.”

“I know!” Floey said excitedly and grinned at me. “Everyone needs long walks and long talks, just like this!”

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When and Why I gave up my Gun

 

Mom-Dad on stump

Mom and Dad

It was the summer of 1991. Mim and I were still living in Chicago, but we spent quite a bit of time in Cambridge that summer. It was the year my dad died, and we spent most weekends throughout the summer at the farmhouse, sorting through all my parents’ belongings. My mom had died five years earlier, and my dad had continued to live at the farmhouse. There had been no need to go through things after my mom’s death, so we had to go through everything in 1991.

It was during that summer that Mim and I decided to have my brother remodel the farmhouse into our dream house, and then we would sell our two-flat in Chicago and move to the farm. We had always dreamed of retiring on the farm, but in 1991 we made the decision to move to the farm while we were in the middle of our careers.

The following May the major remodeling project (gutting the house and doubling its size) was completed and we moved into our beautiful “new” century-old farmhouse.

 

 

Original House - 1992

Farmhouse – Before and After

WW NW

Back in the summer of 1991, as we were going through the house, divvying up things among my brother and sister and their kids and us, we came upon my dad’s 22-rifle that he had kept in the closet next to the kitchen door. He didn’t use the gun for hunting. He used it to scare away wild animals from the house – like raccoons and an occasional fox.

My brother said we should keep the rifle for the same reason. We might need it to scare away some pesky wild animals. Shooting the rifle at the sky would do the job.

22-rifle

That seemed like a good idea to me. I remember learning to shoot a 22-rifle when I was a kid and Danny bought his first real 22-rifle. We lined up tin cans on the fireplace at the edge of the lawn and took turns seeing how many we could hit from about 50 feet away. It was fun. Now I could picture Mim and me having a little target practice with tin cans when we were settled into our new home on the farm.

But then Mim overheard us talking and said in no uncertain terms, “We are not having a gun in our house!” One of my nephews was delighted to hear her comment. He immediately offered to take the gun off our hands. So, I gave it to him. It wasn’t worth fighting over.

Mim and I obviously had very different feelings toward guns. I grew up playing cowboys and Indians with Danny and my cousins. We played with toy pistols and rifles all the time. Then we graduated to BB guns and pellet guns, and finally a 22-rifle. I knew you had to be careful with real guns, but I basically viewed them as toys for shooting at targets and potentially tools for scaring off wild animals. (I never had any desire to hunt.)

Danny and Marian shooting with rifles cropped

Danny & Marian protecting their snowman with rifles.

Mim, on the other hand, saw guns as dangerous weapons. She didn’t play with toy guns as a kid. Her primary association with guns came from her job as a nurse in Chicago. She had to try to repair some of the damage done by real guns when she worked in a hospital emergency room. She had such a strong aversion to guns that she actually quit her job as a hospice nurse in Chicago when her employer’s solution to the problem of a nurse needing to go into a rough neighborhood alone in the middle of the night to care for a dying patient was to supply the nurse with an escort who carried a gun.

Obviously, Mim and I had completely different reactions to the prospect of keeping a gun in our farmhouse. Fortunately, we were able to quickly resolve our differences.

So, why can’t our country resolve our differences about gun ownership? I think the basic reason is really very simple. Each side refuses to acknowledge that the other side has some valid reasons behind their feelings and opinions.

7 HabitsOne of the best business books I ever read was The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. The major premise behind this book is that the way to be most effective is to really strive to understand the perspective of the person you disagree with. (I’ll admit I read the book about 40 years ago, but that’s what I remember most from it.)

There may be other factors that play into the gun controversy, but if everyone who holds a strong opinion on the matter would really try to understand, not necessarily agree with, but simply understand another perspective on the issue, there might be some hope for a good resolution, a reasonable compromise.

I’m sure that’s why Mim and I could quickly resolve our disagreement over keeping the 22- rifle. I understood how terrifying it would be for Mim to have a gun in the house. And I measured that fear against my need to protect us from wild animals. Also, I was sure I wouldn’t be able to engage Mim in shooting at tin cans even though I had briefly fantasized about it. Giving away the gun was a no-brainer. In reality, over the next 20-plus years, I would have needed the gun only once for protection, and in that case, I got my brother to come over with one of his guns to send the huge menacing snake in the asparagus patch to its final resting place.

I guess the gun controversy isn’t the only ongoing disaster our country is unable to resolve because of our inability to acknowledge the validity of different perspectives on the issues. Immigration. Gay marriage. Abortion. Global weather change. Freedom of religion. And on and on.

We need to learn to listen. And to understand each other. And to respect each other. These are the processes we need to value. Not who can shout the loudest. Or raise the most money to buy the most politicians.

We need to take out the earplugs, soften our voices, and listen. Especially this year, when the tendency will be to do just the opposite.

listen-understand-act