“People don’t care how much you know
until they know how much you care”~Theodore Roosevelt.
Things and times have changed. When I was no more than 7 years old, I was entrusted with an awesome responsibility: I had to travel home from school unsupervised. This was in Manchester, a busy city in England. Once a week, instead of being walked home from school by my mother, I had to catch a double decker red city bus and get off at Chorlton Road Congregational Church, where my mother was at a women’s meeting. I was so proud of myself! I carried a purse with the 2 large ‘willie’ pennies for my fare, wrapped in a piece of paper with my mother’s reminder: ‘An 81 or an 82, but NOT a 94!’ I would recite it over and over again to make sure I didn’t catch the wrong bus.
Meanwhile in Jamaica, kids that age and younger would be sent to the rum bar with cash to buy a ‘gill of white rum and two cigarettes’ for their father working in the field, so merely catching a bus was not that much of a responsibility! It is all relative. But who can imagine doing such a thing today, or in the USA? My mother’s memorable lines and other rhymes still guide me today. When crossing the road I would chant: ‘Look right, then left, then right again. If the road is clear, walk across, don’t run!’ That only works when the cars are driving on the left!
We have an amazing memory, if we choose to develop it. We can recall poems and songs from our childhood quite easily. People with dementia can sing old songs word for word, even when they can no longer recognize family. And we can use this ability to learn new information, at any age. But we often think we are too old to learn new tricks, and remind set in unhelpful ways.
Around 20 years ago I went to a baby shower for one of my childhood friends. It was a typical Jamaican affair, with Jamaican food and music. I knew almost everyone there, had grown up and gone to school with them, except the father. He found it quite strange to see and hear this white woman speaking with a Jamaican accent, obviously completely at home in the Jamaican surroundings (in Miami). At some point during the event he came up to me and started a conversation: “So, tell me all about your white life” he said. At the time I responded with a choice Jamaican bad word, finding the question quite rude. I have told this story often, yet it was only recently, probably heightened by the atmosphere of insensitive and racist speech we hear daily, that I recognized that there was honesty to that question. Here was a man who acknowledged that someone with a different skin color than him would have a different experience of life. We wish it were not so, but it is.
We get into trouble when we assume we know another person’s life. We begin to grow when, even if only for a moment, we put ourselves in the shoes of another. If you have the time, ask someone their story. You may be surprised to hear that the lady that empties the trash has a daughter studying medicine; or the homeless man begging at the traffic light was once a university professor. We often are so tied up in our own lives, in our own troubles, that we don’t stop and acknowledge the struggles that another person is going through. And those struggles may be so profound they make your own shrink by comparison.
It takes reminders and daily affirmations to make change in our lives. And that is where those poems and rhymes come in handy. Want to remind yourself to see life from the perspective of another? Look both ways. Want to remind yourself to reframe a situation so you see the positive instead of the negative? Flip the coin. There are many little ways you can build new pathways in your brain, start a new habit, to develop a new way of thinking. It is dangerous to think we are too old to change. We read every day of people graduating from college at the age of 70, or 80, or 90! Years ago I read of a man who learned to read at the age of 90; he then went on to write a book! What’s your excuse?
Many of us tend to worry about things that haven’t happened, anxiously imagining bad outcomes of future events. It sounds ludicrous when you say them out loud, yet our minds can race ahead creating all kinds of scary possibilities. And for some of us, these thoughts are the most active when we should be resting, preventing our minds and bodies from resting and restoring with health giving sleep. If you suffer from this, I challenge you to look the other way. What if instead you imagined wonderful things happening? I saw a beautiful quote the other day: “If all you did was just look for things to appreciate you would live a joyous, spectacular life.” (Abraham Hicks). And there is always something to appreciate. As they say in Jamaica: ‘It coulda worse’ (It could be worse).
This Friday morning I recommend that you look at something or someone from a different perspective. Challenge yourself to find something to appreciate even when you are broken down on the highway. Reframe, flip the coin, look both ways! It is always possible!
Have a wonderful weekend Family!