In our busy lives, we often focus on what’s right in front of us. We’re involved in sports teams, social gatherings, making meals, and planning birthday parties. While we’re doing all of this…head down, straight ahead…there’s stuff happening on the edges of our lives. What are we missing that we’d see if we just looked up? What difference could we make if we just spoke up?
Whether in real life or online, we interact with people that we’re not close to. We don’t know everyone intimately. We don’t share the same sense of humor or support the same causes. However, with all these differences, all those folks on the fringes of our life present opportunities to learn, help, change, and grow.
What am I going on about? Well, sometimes it’s nice and comfortable to surround ourselves with people like us. People that will high five us when our team wins are more fun to watch the game with than people who agree with the ref’s call against us. But only listening to the same beliefs all the time doesn’t leave us any room to consider something different or to question if we still agree.
For example, I was a young Navy wife once. I wanted more time with my sailor. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t email me daily from the ocean depths. I missed him horribly and wondered if this life was for us. And I really enjoyed the commiseration of those who were in the same place. It was sometimes really nice to sit around in our oversized sweat pants, drink wine, and share about how the Navy life was hard. Had I only hung with those ladies, though, we probably wouldn’t have lasted in the Navy or at least our marriage might not have.
Thankfully, though, there were wives I didn’t know all that well who quietly said, “It’s not all sunshine and roses, but sometimes you get to see a rainbow.” They’d remind me of some of the benefits of loving a submarine sailor. Like loving him after he’d been gone for months. Like meeting people (and the foods they make) from all over the country. Like getting to see the inside of a submarine or how smoothly it sails through the water on its way back to port. Rainbows, indeed.
I’m glad they spoke softly, and remembered they were once in my shoes, but I’m glad they spoke up at all. They didn’t know if I’d hear them, but I did, at least sometimes. And I appreciated their view from outside my circle.
I’ve found chances to speak up from the outskirts too. And I try to remember that whole quiet approach, but sometimes my words are more on the level of air horn than friendly beep-beep.
Recently, while scrolling through my Facebook feed, I saw a meme that depicted a boy, a girl, and a banana. He was forcing the fruit in her mouth while saying, “You’re going to learn today.” As soon as I read it I was disgusted, but I didn’t really know the poster that well. We’d been in the same exercise group years ago and she’d never been dramatic enough on Facebook for me to unfriend her. But now there was this. What to do…what to do?
This isn’t the first meme that might go too far that I’ve seen, but it really stuck with me. I tried to let it go, but I couldn’t. Over an hour later I was still thinking about it and decided to make a comment. And then I’d let it go. What discreet reminder of how this might affect others’ emotions did I leave?
“This may cause some to laugh, but it raises bile in my throat.”
I was a little worried that my abrasive but honest comment might start some drama of my own, but thankfully it didn’t. She removed the post and sent me a message saying that she didn’t think it was that offensive. That was sad to me, but I felt good for having said something from the outside. You never know how many people in your circles – close to you or not – have personal stories about sexual assault and would be hurt by your cavalier posting. I think I made a difference.
And you can too! You don’t have to speak up every time someone posts something off color. You don’t have to try to convince melancholy acquaintances to be cheerful. But maybe you can intervene when someone needs a helping hand someone other way, some other time. And when you do, you can learn about yourself. You can see what really matters enough for you to speak up.
Or maybe you can identify a time in your life when someone stepped up from the sideline of your circle. Perhaps you’re a new mom who said yes to a hot meal from a church member you barely know. Maybe a friend of a friend extended an invitation to something fun, and you accepted. Maybe that person is now your friend and your world is expanding. Not a bad thing at all.
What’s my point in all this rambling? I think that anyone can make a difference. I think that everyone has a voice. I think that looking up and looking around can give us a different appreciation for who others are and how we effect each other. Because I think we do.
It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day routines that are our lives. When we get down to it, though, we’re all people. We’re all human beings. We interact, like it or not. And we effect each other. Even when we’re on the periphery. After all, sometimes being on the outside looking in, we’ve got the best vantage point to create change.