There are a lot of traits I inherited from my mother and one of those characteristics is that I can talk to anyone. Give me a soccer mom, a Harley biker or a tree and I can go on about who knows what for hours. Typically, these conversations are agile and casual but there are times when a lighthearted conversation decides to take a turn into a serious one.
These poor unsuspecting people don’t know what’s coming for them. It also doesn’t help that I tend to engage with individuals who could also talk someone’s head off so neither one of us can easily leave the conversation.
Today, I was sitting at my sun-heated table in Starbucks drinking my matcha green tea latte when I got into the whole “what do you think is wrong with our country” talk with the gentleman next to me. More often than not, people bring up the obvious answers: immigration, education reform, racism, etc. Though all these topics hold immense importance, this particular conversation didn’t touch any of them. This man and I came to agreement that one of the main issues that currently plagues the United States is division. Division between people, division between parties and division in our viewpoints.
I’ve been in similar conversions before so I knew the reasoning behind my opinion and he seemed to be pretty solid in his argument as well. Only a couple minutes into our discussion, this articulate man made a very important point (and one I had never previously considered). “Take this coffee cup,” he said. “I could tell you this coffee cup is white. See? Yet you could be looking at the exact same coffee cup and tell me it is cream, not white.” He went on to assert that neither of us were wrong: we were both speaking the truth about what we saw. “As humans, we all see things differently. You and I could be looking at the exact same thing, but it doesn’t mean we are seeing the same thing.”
This man’s level of insight left me speechless. There is no doubt we face division in our country, but what if this division is due to our perception and not our differing viewpoints?
What if we are under the impression that people with contrasting opinions are inherently wrong rather than the fact that they could be speaking from a perspective that they can’t even control?
Okay, so we’re talking about a coffee cup here which happens to be drastically different than social or political arguments. I get it. Translating something so simple into something so complex is not an easy task, but let’s try to apply this line of thought to the extremely relevant topic of illegal immigration. Two individuals walk along the Mexican-American border in opposite directions. “Person 1” witnesses 50 immigrants crossing the border into the U.S. illegally. He says that illegal immigration is a major problem facing our country. “Person 2” encounters four people crossing the border into the U.S. illegally and deems illegal immigration a minor problem in the United States. In both cases, 54 individuals crossed over the border in the same length of time, but person 1 and 2 witnessed entirely different scenarios. When asked about this issue, Person 1 admits that if he saw 4 people enter the country that he wouldn’t think of it as a major problem. Person 2 mentions that if they saw 50 people entering the country that they would view illegal immigration as a problem.
In this scenario, both of these individuals are on the same page, but since they viewed the exact problem from an uncontrollable point of view, they argue about their “dramatically different” opinions.
As humans, we are quick to judge. The problem isn’t that we judge: it’s that we judge with a lack of information. I challenge myself every day by telling myself to think twice about my perceptions of other people and upon recognizing that I don’t know someone’s story or experiences, I try to take a step back from inflicting preconceived appraisals on them. That coffee cup may be white in your eyes, but it is cream in another person’s eyes. The coffee cup is still the same coffee cup.
All the best ❤