It is a work of art to get to the point when you can be just a watcher, setting that judgmental side we all have aside, and simply acknowledge the situations you get involved in.
I remember many years ago when I arrived at the country I live in today. So many things were different from the place I came from! There is a particular episode that led me to write this post. Once, I went to help with an assignment in my oldest kid’s classroom. At some point in their activity the children had to use a brand new pencil to make a hole in a clay project they had created. All the children immediately threw away their pencils in the trash can after doing this… I was shocked! I looked at the teacher, who did not seem surprised at all. I thought to myself:”How can they throw never before used pencils away when many people in the country I come from don’t even have pencils to write with?” Many times I have collected used crayons that get broken or smaller than a finger’s size to take to poor schools in that same country. After watching that scene, I immediately started criticizing in the back of my mind, considering this attitude irresponsible and unconscious to say the least.
Years later, after learning to see (most of the time, at least) things from another person’s point of view, I realized they did not mean for this simple act of throwing away new pencils to be a way of bragging or disrespecting poor people who barely have the tools necessary to cook and live, imagine tools for writing… The children (including my own) and even the teacher just didn’t know any different; they have never experienced such poverty and lack of resources. Everything has been available to them, so there was no need to reuse those pencils.
Funny enough, I saw myself on the other side a couple of years later, when I visited my cousin, who lives in Australia. As I stepped into the kitchen to help her with dinner, I turned on the faucet to wash some dishes, and when I was done she commented on the way I was using the water. She had felt a bit nervous as I let the water run while washing utensils, when the custom in that country is to turn off the water right away if you are not using it! Was I then being the irresponsible and unconscious one? Yes. But did I do this on purpose? Obviously, no. It’s just that I have always had water available, and don’t even think about this. Well, to them it is very different, as they have suffered with long droughts many times.
This episode did not turn into conflict, but it could have if both of us had been more judgmental about each other. It sure helped to have gone through that experience at the school counting pencils in the trash can; and it is possible that my cousin has had one of her own also. Maybe you have heard the saying: “…Each experience will serve a purpose, each obstacle is a blessing in disguise.” Every situation helps us learn lessons to enrich our lives; in this case, it has helped me understand why judging other people won’t really do any good – for them or myself. Instead I have learned to feel compassion immediately, which will allow me to understand the situation better, considering other people’s point of view.
So, next time you find yourself judging someone (which we all do; no reason to feel guilty), try to feel compassion, and from there decide how to proceed for the best turnout for everyone involved. Even the universe will thank you!