Perspective is such a fascinating thing. So often, we see something in a certain way, and we assume that others are seeing it in a similar light. But the chance that they aren’t can mean the difference between fighting and loving, between embarrassment and friendship, between grief and delight.
I love being reminded of such things.
On Shabbat, I was speaking to a neighbor. These are lovely acquaintances of ours who we have really only gotten to know in the last few years. She remarked that she couldn’t believe it was two years ago already when they had us over for the second night of Rosh Hashanah. “My husband and I were just talking about it. I was so embarrassed that night. I couldn’t believe it.”
And I knew exactly what she was about to say. We arrived at their house a bit early that night, before our hosts got home. And the only one at home was their son who, at the time, was in 7th grade. He set the table while we waited for his parents; but when his parents returned, they quickly realized that he had set it with the wrong dishes and everything had to be redone.
“I was so embarrassed,” she remarked. “There we were with guests that we didn’t know that well and we had to reset the entire table. He was trying to help but…”
And I shared my perspective with her, which I knew she was going to find surprising.
“We were just reminiscing about this as well, but you’ve got it all wrong. All we remember from that night is that your 12 year old son had taken it upon himself to set the table and get things ready while you were still out. We spoke about it for weeks afterwards, reminding our kids how impressed we were with his initiative and his desire to help out. It became a great teaching moment for us.”
“What?” she giggled. “What are you saying? You’ve got to be kidding me. We’ve been embarrassed by it ever since.”
“And we, we have been highly impressed.”
You never know how other people are going to see you, how they are going to interpret events, or how they are going to use their own perspective and background to integrate information. So often we spend time stewing about something that happened, assuming how others see us and react to events and behaviors as we see them.
This stark contrast was such a beautiful reminder for me, as we head towards Yom Kippur, about communicating and seeing things from another’s perspective. I was so glad I got the opportunity to share my vantage point with this mom and to move her moment of embarrassment to one of pride.
May we all be sealed in the book of life for another bountiful, healthy and joyous year.