Last summer while on vacation my husband and I flew over the ocean. From the height of the plane, the water looked like a large piece of interestingly patterned fabric. My perspective did not allow me to see the motion of the waves, although that motion created the pattern I was seeing.
This observation made me think of a quote from Marcel Proust: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
Our perspective often changes how we see things and can provide new insights, appreciation and understanding.
I enjoy walking through my neighborhood and looking at everyone’s yards wherever I have lived. Some yards are very well taken care of while others need some work.
I often wondered why people didn’t just take the time to pick up fallen sticks or other things in their yards. It wasn’t until I became a single mom that I realized that maybe these people wanted to keep their yards neat but other things took priority.
Working and taking care of my children and household chores didn’t always leave much time for the yard. Additionally, if the weather didn’t cooperate when I had time, the yard work just had to wait.
I also gained new insights into the life of one of my brothers when I became a single mom.
One Christmas, my sister sent a few things for one of my children to put in my stocking so I would have some surprises. The next year my parents were out of the country, and I decided to send my single brother a filled stocking because he would be alone.
My parents had been out of the country at Christmastime before, but being single changed my perspective. I had learned that being by yourself at Christmas was rather lonely and that knowing someone was thinking about you helped.
As I became a parent, I gained greater appreciation for my parents and all they had done for me when I was growing up. Sitting through countless performances and sporting events, chauffeuring my children to activities and worrying about and helping my children through various challenges made me grateful for all the time my parents spent supporting me.
Sending a son to college across the country really made me appreciate my parents. My siblings and I all went to college 1,800 miles away from home, and my parents didn’t have email or cell phones to keep in touch with us.
I had a hard enough time with those conveniences. My new perspective gave me this appreciation.
Getting to know people who are different from me has also changed my perspective and given me greater understanding. I have a nephew with Down syndrome and one of my good friends has a son on the autism spectrum.
I’ve had students from different countries and from all walks of life. Getting to know all these people helps me see that we are really not that different from each other. We all have hopes and dreams, we all have challenges and we all can contribute in our own ways.
Our differences don’t need to make us wary of one another. Instead our differences enrich life and bring variety.
Seeing things from different perspectives can help us gain greater insight into people’s lives and give us greater appreciation for things we might take for granted.
As the world becomes more interconnected and our community becomes more diverse, using new eyes to look at people can help us discover our similarities, understand others’ situations and enjoy the richness that diversity brings.
Susan Cox is one of The Republic’s community columnists, and all opinions expressed are those of the writer. She is a mother, an adjunct instructor of English at Ivy Tech Community College-Columbus and a substitute teacher for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.