He’s always been an insightful child, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I read the quote in my 16-year-old’s English paper.
The assignment asked students to describe their life philosophy, and Tommy wrote the paper about perspective.
But it wasn’t at all what I expected to read.
I thought I’d see something akin to “don’t sweat the small stuff,” but his view was much more profound. He defined perspective in three ways:
- Empathy for an adversary
- To truly win an argument, both sides must be willing to listen to each other and see the situation from the other side’s point of view.
- Empathy for strangers
- We should be cautious when making presumptions or judgments about people we don’t know. We haven’t lived through their experiences, so we can’t truly determine if they’ve made the “right” decisions.
- Goal clarity
- Without a clear understanding of what’s important to us, we lose focus. We get stressed and overwhelmed because it all seems important when we’re caught up in the increasing momentum of conflicting priorities.
And then I saw this sentence in the closing paragraph, and I just stopped.
“It all depends on how we look at it and what we allow ourselves to see.”
I found the sentence so compelling that I just stared at it for a moment.
I read it and reread it at least a dozen times – rolling it over in my mind like you would examine a rare seashell found on a casual stroll along the surf. I studied every part of it, discovering something new each time.
I needed that sentence.
In that exact moment in the context of that specific day, that line spoke directly to me.
It reminded me to take a deep breath, to take the time to see things from all angles. In the rush of the day, we’re forced to quickly categorize our experiences and move on without having a complete or accurate understanding.
Most importantly, though, it reminded me that we all have filters that prevent us from seeing the full truth. These are sometimes protective lenses, but they still limit “… what we allow ourselves to see.”
When I finally emerged from my moment of contemplation and epiphany, I looked up to see Tommy staring back at me. I explained how powerful his message was, but he didn’t see it that way at all.
I was fascinated – and a tad ticked off – at how calm he was. He had just composed a beautiful, melodic, compelling quote that would help people reframe their situations for years to come and he just sat there, hands slightly out, palms up, looking at me with confusion and impatience on his face.
To him, it was no big deal.
To him, it was effortless and natural and it just flowed through him. He didn’t have to think about it or put the pieces together or arrive at the conclusion. It was just there.
It was just there in pure clarity.
My 16-year-old son, Tommy. An inspiration and a guardian angel since the day he was born. Photo by Keeron Thomas.
About the Author
Jessica Walter is a Communication Strategist & Leadership Coach with a passion for inspiring companies to live into their true potential. She’s found that the essential equation for long-term success includes Marketing, Culture, and Leader Development.
Jessica has been a researcher and strategist for an integrated marketing agency, the marketing executive for a regional bank, the communications director for a health system, the public affairs officer for a Dept. of Defense command, and the assignment editor for a TV newsroom.
She holds a master’s degree in Strategic Leadership & Business Ethics from Duquesne University, a bachelor’s in Mass Communication from Towson University, and the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Universal Accreditation Board.
She is a member of the Public Relations Society of America and is certified as a Lean Systems Leader and a Professional Leadership Coach.
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2018 Jessica Walter, MS, APR
All content provided here is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any organization with which the author is involved. Although the author makes an extensive effort to provide a complete representation of facts, there may additional helpful information provided by other sources. Whenever researching your own situation or devising a strategy, it is recommended to gather information from many sources. The author sincerely hopes that you find this information helpful and urges you to be inspired, to inspire others, and to be gentle with yourself as you continue on your path.