Saturday, February 2, 2013

Exercises in Perspective

I talk a lot about perspective, but I think about it even more often.  It's one of the few things that keeps me from coming apart at the seams during the Mad Tea Party of life.  

I like to read about things that give me perspective and about the impact that different people and experiences have had on others.  One thing I have realized in thinking about the legacy that my dad left behind is that little things can make a big difference - little things we say, little things we do, and even little things we think.  Each of these can serve to shape each of us into a person with a bigger heart, a better outlook, and a broader perspective.  As Mother Teresa once said, "None of us, including me, ever do great things.  But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful."

In keeping with that theme, I have decided to compile of list of things that can bring perspective and post those ideas periodically as challenges to myself and to others.  Some will be fun, some will be thought-provoking, some will be service oriented or otherwise actionable.  All will be targeted at contributing to the perspective of anyone who participates.

Here's the first one:

Let someone know the impact he or she has had on your life.

This idea came to me from a message that I got from a person who knew my dad many years ago.  The person had heard that my dad was sick but didn't know that he had died. In reading some of the entries in this blog, he recognized himself as one of the guys in the story that I told here:

When he read that story, he said, "I tell the story of that race in Mississippi all the time to people. I learned a life lesson that day. A great story was told through his life. I can recall all those runs and races and his smile that seemed too broad for his little body."

When I told him that Dad had gone on ahead, he expressed sadness and regret that he had not been able to tell my dad how he had been impacted by him.  He said, "I wanted to tell him how his life story connected to mine. He was largely responsible for my love of running and in many ways responsible for my future."

Thinking about his words and the words he said he wished he had told my dad made he think about the fact that there are many people in my life to whom I haven't reached out in some way over the years to let them know how they influenced me. 
What he said made me realize that end-of-life regrets are not only for people who are nearing the end but also for those left behind who haven't delivered a message that we wish we had.  

In doing this first Exercise in Perspective, you may choose to communicate with a person from your past or from your present, someone younger or older, someone who served as a mentor or a teacher to you or just a person who caused you to think or act differently than you might have otherwise.  Your message can be delivered in writing or verbally, and it can even be as basic as something like, "Thank you; knowing you has helped make me the person I am today."  The only criterion to this challenge is that you reach out to a person who has left a mark on you in some way, and the point is this: don't wait.  Do it now; the person to whom you deliver your message will be glad, and so will you.

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