I remember being a young girl and thinking that my parents knew everything. It was as if their minds were home to every solution, to every problem that might ever come my way.
Even though I believed that they both knew how to fix everything, I also knew that they each had their own approaches to handling situations. For example, I always knew that if I scraped my knee and ran to my mother, she would help by giving me a bandage or by kissing it.
If I ran to my father, on the other hand, he would immediately begin acting like he was a doctor performing a transplant on my knee. He would ask my brother or one of my sisters to hand him an imaginary knife so that he could “cut off” my old knee, and then he would go get a new one. Afterwards, he would say, “It’s as good as new.” While he was pretending to be this doctor, he was dramatic with every movement that he performed, and it always made us laugh. It was the one sure way to get us to stop crying when we were hurt.
Once we got older, this was something that my sister, Caroline, and I knew would work if we saw a child that got hurt and was crying. Our first response was to go into full acting mode, pretending to be a doctor performing an intense surgery. It always worked--except for this one instance.
My sister and I were at our youth pastor’s house at the time, and his young daughter was there. She fell and hurt her arm, and Caroline and I knew exactly what to do. Caroline immediately became the surgeon, and I was her assistant. She asked for a knife, and once I handed her the imaginary knife and Caroline began moving towards her arm, the little girl started screaming to the top of her lungs.
It was all instant panic, and Caroline and I were wondering what we had done. We had no clue that it would scare her, as it had always made us laugh. That being said, we knew that we had just caused this little girl to scream in terror.
She thought that we were really trying to cut off her arm, and she ran to her parents, sobbing hysterically. We then had to try to explain to her parents what we were trying to do. Needless to say, Caroline and I are now extremely wary about using this technique to help whenever we see a child get hurt.
Even though this story is something that we look back on and laugh, I began thinking about it a little deeper. This little girl was hurt, and we were attempting to help her based on our past experiences. We knew that it always helped us, so we assumed that it would help her, and we had no reason to believe otherwise.
Although our reality was that we were attempting to help her and make her laugh, her reality was something completely different. She firmly believed that we were trying to hurt her.
This silly story actually brought to light something that was really important for me to realize. I learned that two people can be sitting in the exact same space at the exact same time and experience a completely different reality.
I once heard someone say that there is no such thing as reality, there are only 7 billion people’s perceptions of it. With this in mind, it is important to seek to understand the reality of the people around you. Your friends, family and even strangers that you walk by see the world differently than you do, and that is more than okay.
We cannot try to help everyone by attempting to push our view of the world onto them. That is not how to possitively impact the lives of others. We impact the lives of others by learning about others.
Learn about their experiences. Learn about their perceptions. Most importantly, seek to understand. After all, we all just seek to be understood.