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Erin had one of the tiniest, most uncomfortable beds I’d ever slept in. She also liked to sleep while holding my left arm in a death grip, elbow-down. This limited my sleep options on the meat tenderizer she called a bed to either my left side or back. One particularly sleepless night, I began to look around for a distraction from the pain of my left arm slowly being severed from my body.
There were paintings everywhere. Stacked along the floor, the walls, and even one on the ceiling. A nearby streetlamp haphazardly tossed light through one of the windows and across the paintings. It was just bright enough to see and, one by one, I made up a story about each painting. There was a field of cheddar cheese, a depressed pomegranate, and a family of algebra 1 equations stuck on a fence, among others.
Hours later, Erin woke and I told her my version of how each painting came to be . She listened, she laughed, but she did not tell me I was wrong. She had created every painting in that room but did not mind that my late-night perceptions of her art were probably very different from hers. She could have been angry and said that I was mocking her artwork or making fun of her perspective. It might have escalated into a full-blown argument. She could have told me to get off the meat tenderizer and out of her house.
But she didn’t.
She simply enjoyed our conversation as I took secret delight in seeing that my left arm still functioned normally.
My experience with Erin and her paintings often comes to mind as I interact with new people and work to understand their perspectives.
We are all very different people with unique (and often, quite passionate) views of the world around us. If we seek to love only those with views perfectly-aligned with our own, we will suffer disappointment because nobody ever matches up perfectly. However, if we reach out like Erin and embrace new perspectives, an ever-expanding world of ideas awaits us.
What do you think?