Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Moment in Time

I do not know why this thought came to me today, but it was with me when I awoke this morning. It occurs to me that when we meet someone, sometimes we meet them as they are, at a moment in time, and that really does not reflect who they are as a person in sum total....

It is true that our life experiences shape us into being who we are, but we do not always project those experiences in our moment. That is one of the many reasons that first impressions are so dangerous and unhelpful in terms of who people are, and in terms of defining what our relationships should be.

I am thinking of having met someone who was later in his life: he seemed well settled, well established in his life. As time went by and I learned more about his background, I realized that just a few years previous to our meeting, his life had been upended, and he was really just still starting over when I met him. That was obvious to the other people I knew, who knew him, and who introduced this person to me, but I came to learn that about him over time... And to realize the person I knew was very different from the person others, who had known him longer, knew.

Recently, I spent a weekend visiting a friend and her husband. This friend had, since I met her some ten years ago, gone through some very major life changes. Visiting with her, her life seemed very settled. Yet her story, and that of her current husband, is full of starting over. He had to start over, forced by not one, but two tornadoes, which destroyed most of his worldly belongings. Yet, he did, and he built new relationships along the way, while keeping relationships from the past. What a wonderful lesson to learn about life. His life today is very different than the one he might have expected, hearing the story of his past. My friend has been through the turmoil of difficult relationships with children, two other marriages, struggling to find herself when she was so lost and literally suffocating in a failed relationship. The lesson from both their lives is the "attitude of gratitude" with which they live, and how it projects into their lives. The moment in time of knowing them does not reflect their struggles negatively. It projects, instead, their attitude of blessing with which they live life, and is truly a reflection of their faith.

I recently had the opportunity to have a chance meeting with a co-worker, someone I have chanced upon, from time to time, outside of work. His current work is a "before retirement" career which is very different from what he has done in his earlier life: He has a professional degree, worked in that career, has his own business, and now, has the government job and career. Knowing him at work projects a different person than the one he really is. Getting to know him a little outside of work results in a very different picture. I work at a prison, and this is a lesson I learn, over and over again, as I learn about many of the correctional officers with whom I work. Many have good educational backgrounds, and have moved into work as correctional officers for the retirement benefits their previous careers did not offer. This chance meeting with the co-worker is not the first time I have learned this about a correctional officer. But it is a lesson about which I need to be reminded, over and over.

When we meet someone, what does that moment in time reflect about who we are?



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