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Perspective

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Desert in the Rear View Mirror

Last week I had the privilege of driving through some West Texas desert.  (I digress here, but it dawns on me that driving is a privilege.  Owning a car, possessing a driver’s license, the stamina to drive for many hours are all sweet privileges. This has nothing to do with the desert but a revelation I had none the less.)  Looking at the desert from my rear view mirror, I realized it’s beauty.  However, when I was up close and personal with it — dirt in my face, skin dried out, tumbleweeds in my path, desolation all around — the beauty was much more difficult to grasp.

     by Johnathan Gooch

     by Johnathan Gooch

You don't have to be driving through a geographical desert to sense desolation all around you.  In the desert, we feel we’ll never get out.  Purposefully pushing through the desert, despair gets replaced with endurance.   Endurance comes as a result of a trip through the empty, desolate places.

No matter which way you turn in the desert it looks the same — dirt, tumbleweeds, cactus.  It seems that there is no way to differentiate which way to go.  Confusion and hopelessness start to settle in. Because we can’t be sure what’s ahead of us, we often turn back to where we’ve been. As we keep moving forward, confusion gives way to new, unexpected direction — a fresh perspective.

If you are like me, your favorite pastime in the desert is to look at people who aren’t in the desert.  They are not covered with dirt.  Their skin is moist.  They don’t appear to be confused or desperate or thirsty.  Comparison has never moved anyone out of the desert (or any other place for that matter), only held them there a little longer.  On the back side of the desert, comparison gets replaced with new empathy.   

Whatever desert you find yourself in, I want to remind you that the desert is not a place to survive but a place to be refined.  Allow the process to cultivate something new in you.  Oh, the view of the desert in the rear view mirror is truly stunning!   

 

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New Perspective

In 1959, he darkened his skin tone in order to experience life as a black man.  Segregation marked the streets of the South.  It was dangerous to be a person of color. Under the care of a dermatologist, John Howard Griffin took large doses of a drug that darkened his pigment and spent fifteen hours a day under an ultraviolet lamp.  As soon as his skin was dark enough, he began to travel.  Griffin, a journalist, daily documented his experience for the magazine Sepia.  Basic needs like for food, shelter and bathrooms were difficult enough to meet in the segregated South. The thing that was most disturbing to Griffin was the hatred he encountered from the white world.  He repeatedly referenced the “hate stare.”  One passage that sums up his experience:

Nothing can describe the withering horror of this. You feel lost, sick at heart before such unmasked hatred, not so much because it threatens you as because it shows humans in such an inhuman light. You see a kind of insanity, something so obscene the very obscenity of it (rather than its threat) terrifies you.

Over 30 years ago, I read the book Black Like Me that was published as a result of Griffin’s travel as a black man. All I knew about John Howard Griffin was these six weeks of his life.  Last week, I was exposed to his larger story.  Griffin developed blindness as a young solider after a near miss with a bomb. Eleven years later, much to Griffin’s shock, his sight began to return.  Griffin had lived eleven years making decisions and judgements based on his intuition, not on his sight.  When he begin to see the state of the world, he was appalled at what he saw.  He could not understand why people would judge anyone based on what they looked like.

What do you see, a young women or an old women?

What do you see, a young women or an old women?

Griffin had a completely different perspective because he’d been forced to live without sight.
Perspective is everything.  When all you can see is the view from your own front porch, your perspective is very narrow.  When you get beyond your comfortable spaces and begin to see things through other’s eyes your outlook shifts and all of society benefits.  

What can you do today to get a broader view?