Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Trading Places

When my children were small I would often get down on their level and take a look around. Seeing things from their viewpoint gave me an appreciation for their struggles to understand their world. Things look very different when looking at them from someone else's point of view.

Babies who crawl on the floor see furniture as mountains and those little pieces of lint as interesting tidbits to taste. Outlets are decorations on the wall to explore. There are dark and scary places to hide or that hide wonderful things to explore. Babies are curious about their world. They need to be protected from the dangers around them, but most adults miss those dangers. We don't see what the baby sees until we are made aware of the baby reaching out for the item that is taboo for them. We can learn to understand if we take the time to see things from their perspective.

There is wisdom in trading spaces with others, not just babies. I find that when I think about someone else's day as if it were mine, I find more compassion and empathy. My husband needs me to put myself in his place once in awhile. My friends need me to think about their perspective before I offer advice or rebuke. I even ask what Jesus would think about a situation sometimes. It may not change what I have to say, but it will change how I say it.

Trading Spaces with someone is not done in reality. It is done in our thoughts. It is not a perfect experience, but we can come close. The truth is that even the effort makes the other person feel loved. People need to know that we have tried to put ourselves into their place: their financial downfall, or boon, their marriage or divorce, the loss of a loved one or the birth of a child. There is an endless list of places where we can travel when trying to connect with others.

I believe it helps to ask gentle questions. Questions reveal that we want to understand. However, we should be careful to ask more about feelings than about facts. It is in the emotions that we connect with each other.

Dearest Lord Jesus, You traded places with us and You know the places in which we live. You are all knowing and yet, You asked questions so that we would know You cared. Thank You for making the effort. Help us to make the effort with others. Forgive us when we don't even try.
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