“There are two sorts of curiosity – the momentary and the permanent. The momentary is concerned with the odd appearance on the surface of things. The permanent is attracted by the amazing and consecutive life that flows on beneath the surface of things.” ~ Robert Lynd
We all, I believe, have invaluable human encounters during our lives. One of mine happened in June, 2011. I was traveling cross-country and her name was Rose. She was considerably my senior and I, her captive audience for a while. I’ll share the full story of Rose in a later this spring post. Suffice it to say, Rose stunningly grounded my belief in the adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” a quote attributed to author George Elliot in 1860 and that became popular in the 1920’s.
Perhaps you have had the experience of encountering someone whose life seems so completely different from yours that you can almost imagine having nothing in common. However, if you go deeper into observing, you see that we all have the same things going on in our lives. It is as if our different lives are oddly, interconnected. We all experience a range of emotions. Many of us can have money, relationship and/or employment issues, and everyone struggles with different choices.
Your life and my life show up differently for us because we learn in different ways. One person may need to learn the value of money by having too little of it, while another may need to learn by having more than enough. We each learn about work and love, with experiences that are customized to our perspectives. Though it may seem some people have it easy while others are always struggling, the truth is that we are all learning and it is difficult to tell, when looking only at the exterior of a person, what is going on inside.
From Rose, I learned how this is true with people from all walks of life. As we get to know those who seem different from us, we get to see how much of life’s challenges and joys are common. We begin to look beyond one’s skin color, clothing preferences, social class differences, and what we drive – to the heart of the human experience. It is important to honor what is inside each of us, and the fact that, regardless of how different we appear to be, what is on the inside is often the same.
For those interested in further exploring this, here are three suggested actions:
- Listen to the people around you. People crave for attention. People feel loved when given attention. Give love. Listening is an act of love.
- Talk to someone you think might be in distress. You don’t always need an invitation. You may make a difference of a lifetime.
- Live without limits. Some limits are positive and necessary (like speed limits), but a lot of the limits we place on ourselves inhibit us from experiencing all of what we have to offer. Limits like fearing to reach out to a homeless person or talk to strangers, restrict the flow of kindness in our lives.