Understanding Others

We are surrounded by a kaleidoscope of diversity…while many of us seek a world of monochrome. I am an avid amateur photographer. The emphasis is on amateur. I enjoy posting the photos that I take on Facebook due to my small but dedicated following. Some enjoy the black and white photos while others prefer those with color. I really enjoy both, but lean towards the silver tone due to its timeless quality. However when it comes to the diversity of humanity in all of its panoply of colors and ethnicities and customs…the kaleidoscope is my vision of our society.

Listening is the beginning of understanding. All of us are seeking someone who cares enough about us to focus on us and listen to the thoughts of our hearts and remain silent during the process. The practice is to listen to understand rather than to listen to respond. The more time that I have spent listening to those whom are different than me or who come from a different life experience…the better I am able to appreciate them and their joys and struggles. It is a form of magic when another human being takes you into their confidence and confides in you and trusts you. Trust is a precious gift that forms a bond of cords of love and acceptance that cannot be broken.

Love is an all encompassing word. When someone wants to learn about me and understand me…there is no room for hate and cruelty. Rather the emotion that is generated is to protect your friend and to honor their life. Each time that I have bought into the life’s walk of my friend I want the best for them. When I began at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…I did not know anyone. I was 20 years old. The first person to befriend me was my foreman, Jim, and he was a cigar smoking African American. Jim told a crew supervisor who had been giving me a bad time, ‘Jay is my son…he just will not call me daddy.’ Jim cared about me and I knew it. Although he passed away many years ago I think of him often.

Labor for clear communication. Nothing of value is achieved without hard work. Success is incremental. When I was the superintendent of Building Services, at the University I had an open door policy. That policy was for every member of our organization. We had 350 – 400 people in the housekeeping department. I did my best to listen to each colleague who wanted to speak with me with an open mind and without preconceived ideas or opinions. Of our over 200 student staff there were people from many nations. I listened much more than I spoke.

Luck is the reason that many of us have succeeded in life. I have heard the glowing stories regarding how a person pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and worked from dawn to dusk and that if they could do it…poor people can do the same… Many times these ‘Legends in their Own Mind,’ have been the recipients of many helping hands as they climbed the ladder of success. It seems that temporary amnesia occurs when poor people become upper middle class or wealthy. Understanding must be grounded in reality. If I am going to understand you and you understand me…we must listen to each other in love and humility and be willing to engage in the labor that it will take to overcome the stereotypes that separate us from our brothers and sisters in our human family. We are sad and lonely and desperate and afraid…because we are separated from our family. A peaceful mind and a settled soul will come from our work to understand and appreciate our long lost brothers and sisters. No longer alone…no longer lonely…no longer depressed because our family loves us so much…and protects us from the dark corners of our hearts that have been filled with conspiracy theories and division and strife. The disappointments of our souls and the closed life… has caused us to look for an enemy and a person or people that have caused our malady. The answer to our insular social media lives is to reach out to other members of our precious human family, God’s creation, and renew the fellowship that we crave so badly.


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