Beth and I were talking over the weekend about perspective. It amazes me as I get older the more control I lose and the greater perspective I gain. Whether it’s a few moments, days, months or years, our lives, which we like to plan, can come undone.
The world has never been predictable. I was speaking with a friend the other day about the instability which surrounds us. Our political systems, family and community systems, even our environment seems to be spinning out of control. Nothing, if it ever was, is normal nor inevitable.
Last night I read a quote from Eugene Peterson, a pastor, writer, and scholar. He writes;
“The whole of the spiritual life is learning to die.”
This quote resonated with my spirit and experiences over the last several years. Dying takes many forms. Death of all things is a given but we seem to organize our lives as if we might be the ones to escape the fate of everyone else. Death is not a negative word if you’ve learned to die. If you do not hold on treasures and trinkets, live each day as if it’s your last; being kind, grace-filled and loving, never putting off to an uncertain tomorrow what can be done now, in the present moment.
We are but sojourners on this path called life. We are not meant nor built to last for long. With this perspective; how we choose to be today could be how our transient life is remembered tomorrow.
Last night I attended a local sheriff’s training event called; “Citizen’s Academy.” It is a ten week course that anyone in the community can sign up for to learn more about the law enforcement work being done in our community. The focus for last night’s session dealt with the county jail. I was invited because of our company’s work with the residents of the jail and the classes I teach to incarcerated fathers.
Before it was my turn to present the Chief Deputy spoke about the jail, the residents, how they cook the food, book and transport residents, the contraband they find, the amount of people they house in a given year. Following this, some of the correctional officers, their commanders and medical staff shared stories about what everyday life is like working with an incarcerated population. The stories were mostly negative, interesting and scary. Most people don’t like being locked up and can show it in some unseemly ways. I listened as they described their typical shift experiences and reflected on the different atmosphere and environment I’ve experienced in the dad classes.
Most of the men I’ve taught have been respectful and willing to learn. They’ve opened themselves up to a new way thinking, doing and being. The correctional officers see the worst and, to survive, are trained to expect difficulties and how to diffuse conflict. I on the other hand sit with guys for a couple of hours a week and mostly receive their best efforts. They don’t volunteer to go to jail but volunteer to take the class. They don’t want to be stuck in a cell all day but do want to come to a different setting whether for a new way to think or simply a new set of walls to stare at for an hour.
It’s amazing how two sets of people can look at the same place, people, circumstances and see things vastly different. Perspective is a fickled thing.
It was cold in the house this morning as I pulled off the covers and began turning on the heaters. “Whoo!” I thought to myself. After a few moments I took the dogs outside for their routine and several minutes later, when I came back inside, suddenly the house felt much warmer. I knew it wasn’t because it had suddenly become warm but because out was much colder than in.
Perspective. Change your perspective and you change a lot. Sometimes the difference makes all the difference.
We are quick to label, judge, decide, hand in a verdict, before we look at situations, people, life from a different point of view. Wisdom teaches us that often it’s not the other that needs changing its our way of seeing, knowing, being.