Our need to judge people and events seems so common, that we believe it’s natural to do so. We think that of course everything is right or wrong, good or bad, beautiful or ugly. Yet, none of us like to be called prejudiced. We consider ourselves to be tolerant and informed regarding our opinions. With this true life story I’d like to encourage you to challenge your automatic thought responses, be they positive or negative.
On a plane and in a row of three seats, my daughter and I were recently joined by a young man. He had a shaven head, tattoos on his wrist, smelled strongly of alcohol and immediately started talking non-stop, using liberally the most offensive swear words. We braced ourselves for a noisy and smelly hour ahead. In spite of that we both decided to accept this situation as best we could and give this stranger a friendly listening ear.
When he told us that he had just cut off his long dreadlocks to better his chances of landing a job and how he had a beautiful baby girl, our attitude towards him began to soften. Soon he spoke of how he had met his wife in India and how he wanted to work in Uruguay on an organic farm. The synchronicity began to reveal itself, since I also had met my daughter’s father in India, she and I are thinking of living in South America and two of my sons are very interested in organic farming! We were beginning to enjoy our conversation with him, but he had an ace up his sleeve.
Prior to the flight, we had been discussing what compromises she could and couldn’t make to be able to live with the man she had been in love with for ten long years. How could they search together for a solution to seemingly insurmountable obstacles? Or would they find themselves still asking the same questions in another ten years?
Martin, our new friend, proceeded to tell us, how just five years ago, when he was on hard drugs, he cold not have envisioned that he would meet his wife and have this beautiful baby together. (The age difference between him and my daughter was five years!) He kept saying the word ‘compromise’ over and over, explaining to what lengths he had gone and was willing to go, to make it work between them and what lessons in good communication they had learned.
My daughter was in tears. Who was this man? He had come from nowhere and delivered his most pertinent message without knowing anything about us. After landing he shook hands, wished us the very best and was off. We literally felt awe-struck. How easy it could have been to reject him in the beginning and what a loss it would have been.