Perspective

If you’ve been living under a rock, you might’ve missed that the world is a messy place. I can’t watch the news or scroll Twitter or listen to a podcast without feeling intense emotions.

I could rage wax poetically about all the crap going on right now, but I’m going to take a different approach.

I grew up in a mostly (politically) like-minded family, although my parents never pushed their beliefs on me or my brother when we were young. (We banter occasionally now.) I thought I went to a somewhat liberal school, but the very liberal students would’ve likely disagreed with me. Regardless, I don’t know that college shaped my actual perspective much.

But I think it’s important to recognize what does change us and shape us. And when we’re in those difficult or uncomfortable situations, it’s beneficial to embrace the moment and reflect on it later. So that’s what I’m sharing today.

I categorized this post as “spiritual” because I think that’s where these experiences have most affected me. It’s not a religious perspective or a political perspective, though. It’s just… my constantly changing outlook. And it’s something I feel needs revisited and reflected upon often.

We’re already at 200 words and I haven’t even shared yet. Sorry.

In 2012 I went to Bangalore, India for a month. It was a tough month;. I wasn’t mentally, emotionally, or physically prepared for the trip. I was in shock for the first 10 ten days. The country has its beauty, but there was trash & stray dogs & loose cows & tent homes everywhere. It was tough to see, but even harder when I realized that, after 2 weeks of it, I’d adjusted to it all. Our accommodations were a rough apartment in the heart of city- nothing luxurious. We walked roughly 2 miles to classes at the college and we shopped in the markets on the way home. We were fully immersed from the moment we left the airport.

After I got home I remember the moment our wealth and excess and privilege hit me. I was in church and completely floored by the intricate brickwork, well maintained pews, and beautiful stained glass. I left the sanctuary and started bawling in the lobby. It was the conflicting thoughts of knowing that our church worked/paid for and maintained those comfortable and elaborate things, but also it was PURE COINCIDENCE that I was born to my parents with my skin color in this country. And it put a lot into perspective when it came other others and their situations and how I could help them.

Those feelings have stuck with me.

A more recent lightbulb went off when my mom and I delivered dinner to the local homeless shelter one night.

When we were unloading the serving dishes a few shelter patrons approached our cars to help us. I turn to hand off a dish and came face to face with the boy I had lined danced with in 5th grade gym class. He didn’t recognize me and we didn’t have any kind of relationship outside that gym activity, but I remembered and recognized him.

A man who lived in the same town and went to the same school as me… asking for and accepting help during a vulnerable time in his life. After we finished unloading and said our goodbyes, I drove a few blocks and parked my car and cried. When you’re in 5th grade you don’t picture interactions like that 20 years in the future. I didn’t feel pity for him or anything- I just felt shocked. Grateful that he was in place with warm food and a bed, but sad that anyone ever feels so displaced.

For me, compassion comes much much easier for animals. But now and then there are moments that open my mind and heart to the human plight. And they usually hit me pretty hard and stick around for years (if not forever).

When you get smacked in the face with the uncomfortable truth, I hope you take the time to reflect on it and let it change you, too. It’s a really tough thing for me, but I know it positively influences my behavior and outlook. Today I thought I’d share some of those tough moments that have profoundly changed me.

20 thoughts on “Perspective

  1. Love your honesty & insight. It really takes certain moments to remind us how blessed we are for the lives & privileges that we receive. Pure Blessings. We dont deserve anything more than what someone else has… & no one deserves less. It’s when the world pays attention to that, then we’ll be a better place. Until then, you just thank God once more for the goodness in your life & you share it with others, helping those less fortunate. & less fortunate comes in different ways too – not even money or class or race or where you live – we all have those “less” times… its always helping those in need wherever & however you can. … I’m getting on my own blog post here 🙂 … all that to say, I love your post today my sweet loving friend!!!

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    • “less fortunate comes in different ways, too – not even money or class or race or where you live – we all have those “less” times” – I love that. That is so so true. It amazing how those moments make me feel and overcome me. I know I definitely have a lot to thank God for and I try to ask Him for the guidance and strength to share that goodness in His preferred way ❤

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  2. You are so right! It *is* pure coincidence that we were lucky enough to be born where we were and to who we were. I wasn’t rich growing up (it still constantly amazes me that I am, technically, middle class now and have actual savings – my mum lived pay check to pay check and was always using her overdraft by the end of the month) but we always had a roof over our head, food to eat, occasional treats. People in those tent homes in Bangalore would certainly have considered us rich. I read about children in the UK going hungry during the school holidays because during term time their parents rely on free school meals to feed them and it makes me so sad. Whatever we may have missed out on we always, always had enough to eat!

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    • It’s tough to think about and it’s tough to really pinpoint when we even START thinking about it. I know I wasn’t aware of the gap when I was younger, but I was also comfortable. Would I have been more aware earlier if we’d struggled? I don’t know. It’s definitely something to think about when things *seem* tough but we’re still fed and clothed and sheltered.

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  3. I talk about this with Chuck often, how privileged we are. We have a wonderful opportunity at work to give our service and help local organizations that need it and last year we delivered Thanksgiving dinners to families who couldn’t afford them on their own. It was so so humbling and took me back when we were one of 80 groups doing this in a 2 day period. We delivered thousands of dinners as a company and to think that there are THAT many people out there without a meal is so heartbreaking. SO much in life is about perspective,and while these were some tough situations your post is honest and inspirational and a wonderful reminder. Thank you for sharing.

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    • I think about it a lot, too. We donate money and my mom and I have cooked dinners for the shelter, but I know there’s a lot more we could do. And when we have kids, I want them to realize that their economic position isn’t one of important or power, it’s a platform to help and lift up others. We’re fortunate right now but that can always change.

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  4. I love this so much, Audrey. Thank you for your honesty and candor. I have never been to India but one of my mentors has and I’ll never forget her talking about her experience (somewhat similar to yours). What stuck with me the most – though – was how happy she described them to be, even though they lived in squalor to most Americans. That if they had two bananas, they would insist you take one because you had none. And here in America, so many of us can have all the bananas we want and won’t even consider sharing one with someone in need. We’d let the bananas rot first. In the perfect world, we could send Americans to another country (but not one that looks like them, so sorry most of Europe) so they could see beyond themselves. And fully understand what Maya Angelou wrote, “We are more alike, than we are unalike” and even the parts of us that are different, like skin color, really aren’t that scary.

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    • She’s not wrong- everyone was very happy and generous. We visited a very small village outside the city and a family there cooked for us. There were 15+ of us. I was so appalled that they’d use up so much food on us. (And some idiots had the nerve to criticize it. We shut them up real fast.) I was so touched by their selflessness and generosity. It’s so eye opening to visit a country like that.

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  5. Thank you for sharing this! I have so many moments like this, and moments where I am sort of shocked like that but don’t know what to DO about it, you know? I wish I had some strategies for how to “help” a bit more if that makes sense. Anyhow, I really love this post. I think we take our privilege for granted so often as Americans. Especially here in the Midwest, most people are so safe, and similar, and middle class.. that it is so easy to not be aware of our privilege. If we are aware it is usually a case of class. I think that race, and other minority situations are even harder to see when you live sort of where we do… I hope that people think hard and keep opening their eyes to their own privilege and to the world’s hurts and how we can try to make them a little better. 🙂 XO – Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

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    • The Midwest is definitely blind to so many struggles in the world. You really nailed it- we all essentially look the same, dress the same, come from similar families. Yes, there are differences, but it’s a very monotone part of the world. India was a TOTAL shock to my system when I arrived. It took a long time to figure out.
      I usually don’t know what to do about things either. It’s tough to find the right outlet to help people without a) giving to a cause that might be shady or b) offending people who don’t want the assistance. It can definitely be tough. And I focus a lot of time and donations toward animals to be quite honest.

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  6. i love this. we all need to step back remember just how lucky we are to be where we are and be content with what we have. there are SO MANY places around the world where people are living in awful conditions and it’s heart breaking. i work hard to teach my kid about this – perspective – and that people have it way worse than us so it’s important to recognize that, be kind, help others, give back and just be happy with the simple things in life.

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  7. Beautifully written. I definitely think I’ve changed and grown over the years as I have more life experiences and I see what other people go through. I’m so lucky to have been born in my family, where I live, and with my skin color. No, things aren’t always easy – and I’m a minority in a couple ways – but I’m still very much privileged, and I try to remember that. So many people are suffering in some way around the world and I wish I could do more.

    -Lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    • Thanks, Lauren. I think we struggle no matter what class, ethnicity, location we’re dealt but I always have the thought in the back of my head that someone is suffering or struggling 10xs more than me and once I’m back on my feet physically or emotionally it’s my human duty to lift them up, too.

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  8. When I worked downtown, I felt so blessed every day to be walking to my job in my clothes with a lunch box in hand while passing several people who have been displaced for different reasons, waiting for the shelter to open for breakfast in the morning.

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    • I live in a small town so you don’t see many people outside, but when the food pantry opens the line wraps around the building and when we travel to cities it kills me to just walk past people. I know not everyone is honest, but there are a lot of people honestly fighting battles and struggles that I’ve never experienced =/

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  9. Whew, I know what you mean. I consider myself a moderate conservative, and the wealth gap in my area alone is staggering! I help out with our church’s food pantry, and it’s heartbreaking to see senior citizens who don’t have food to eat. Experiences like the shelter & India are painful but important, and I’m so grateful you’ve shared them with us to get US thinking, too…

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    • I don’t even know what I consider myself anymore, lol. Up until about 8 or 10 years ago I’d have said moderate conservative but I might’ve crossed over. I don’t know. Socially I lean very left and fiscally I lean right. Regardless, struggles affect all of us and you’re 100% right about the heartbreak in seeing senior citizens and children and anyone really struggling just to get by. It’s terrible but acknowledging and volunteering is a great step in the right direction.

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