It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.
The impacts of our actions are often lost on us.
The way that I see it, it's a limited perspective issue. We are only able to see our actions in light of how other people's actions affect us. We emulate the actions that we think would cause a desired reaction in someone based on what would cause the same reaction in us. For example, if I want to tick off my sister, I do something that would really get my goat. Or if I want to make someone's day, I show up with flowers, because that would be something that would really make me feel loved. We act based on our own ideas.
But there is a whole gamut of things that people experience when we act that we don't even see. They translate our actions in their own perspective. Whatever they think is nice or harsh or wonderful peppers their understanding of whatever it is we've done. They then retaliate in their own way... you get the idea.
The longer that we get to know people, however, the more we start to understand their thinking. We start to see their perspective outside of our own. If you don't believe me, try playing apples to apples with people that you know really well. It's a totally different (and better) game then it is with strangers. We learn to emulate how others think. This sort of skill makes us great gift givers- we are able to consider what the other person really wants, and therefore, we can work accordingly.
Still, today I was reminded that our actions impact many around us- not just those who know us and know where we come from, or that we know well enough to understand the meaning of our actions.
One of the women who often comes into the place where I work dropped off a little token of thanks for me and some of the other's who have helped her in this year. I was a little taken back by the gesture, because the only thing I've really ever done for her is stopped to say hi when I see her in our store. She's a sweet person with a great heart, and she always asks about my sister, whom she also knows, and so I make it a point to say hello and wish her well whenever possible. And even that small token of nothingness that I never really considered anything at all made enough of an impact on her that she remembered me.
Later on, I saw her again, and thanked her. She told me that she just wanted to appreciate how even though I don't do work that often directly impacts her, she sees me go out of my way to be friendly and ask about her. That little thing to me, that I didn't even think twice about, made her feel very cared about.
Little did she know what her gesture did for me on a dreary New Years Eve. Today started out a little rough. I was not having a good hair day. Some recent asthma issues (which do not help with sleeping) have turned into a small but still-unfun case of bronchitis. Our work load was a little ridiculous for a holiday when I got to my desk. And the worst was just before my little gift arrived; I had been screamed about by an angry person on the phone who did not like the answer that I had given him. I was very much looking forward to the solitude that going home was going to offer. I wanted a break from people.
But her actions caused me to pause- they reminded me that sometimes things are not so absolute. They reminded me that my screaming customer may not have seen his behavior as hurtful, because to him it didn't seem personal. And mostly, they reminded me that not all people should be lumped into the uncharitable feelings I had based on that one interaction.
And she thought she was just doing something nice for someone who always smiled at her...
I'm not big on New Years. I think every day should be a new beginning. After all, even the bible tells us that each day has new worries of it's own. But I think each one also holds a lesson, and today's lesson was that everyone reads things differently. We have to value that all that we do is held in someone's eyes with great meaning. We have a purpose to someone, at all times. It's a great challenge to be our best at all times so that all may see us well.
It's a good thought to start tomorrow, and a great one to think through while the rest of the world celebrates a new year.