Stop, Look, Listen: Three Simple Steps to Appreciating the Wonder of People Around You
I am in Washington D.C. as a member of the Washington Foreign Press Center’s ‘Youth in Politics’ reporting tour 2012. Over the next 10 days, I, along with journalists from 33 other nations, will be exploring the role of the youth vote in the 2012 U.S. Presidential elections.
As I packed for my trip on Saturday night, I listened to ‘ Lessons from an Inconsolable Soul’ – a biographical overview of the life of C.S. Lewis, by John Piper. The implications on my thoughts now that I am sitting in the heart of “the most powerful nation in the world”, is staggering.
If it captures you – like it has captured me, maybe it will impact the flow and direction of how you live, treat your family and interact with the world.
What is Really Awesome in the World
Piper shared that one of the ways in which Lewis has helped him was to show him how to see and know and feel the astounding wonder of simply being human.
As a Christian thinker, Lewis believed that humans will live forever, after physical death. The thought gripped and informed his entire thinking on 1) how to measure what is valuable in life and 2) how to treat other people.
. . There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.1
Two Sources of Awesomeness in Washington
What Lewis said came rushing back to me after my first day here. In reflecting, I noticed that two things that have impressed me so far.
1. The endless display of creativity in architecture. The historic and imposing structures that fill Washington never cease to captivate me. From building to building, monument to monument – I am in awe. I have never grown exhausted at the creative construction of the city.
2. The people I have met. I have been even more captivated and impressed by the journalists I have met. I spoke to my first Palestinian. I heard, for the first time, an actual Iraqi’s view on the war. A colleague from Oman has promised to teach me Arabic. I finally regretted for the first time dropping Spanish in high school.
I was so eager to connect with everyone and I was not alone. All of us wanted to share and connect.
It is this second source that bothers me about myself.
Are You Really Awed by the Awesome?
Honestly, it is easier to see how amazing human beings are when they are new, markedly different and exciting. When they are from far away and there is little connection. You and I must struggle therefore to keep the truth in our minds – and actions – every day: there are NO ordinary people.
1. Keep in mind, what really matters
Not buildings, structures, websites, gadgets, news, opportunities, food, clothes, drink or job promotion so much.
What Lewis is saying to you and I is that all the physical and material world will pass eventually, but no one you meet in this life will. That is amazing (and frightening). It is, therefore, the quality of their lives in this life and the life to come that must matter most to you.
2. Your job today: Stop, Look, Listen
You must detoxify your system of its propensity to undervalue others. It is a massive struggle (I know it). Lewis puts it like this:
We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. 53
3. Remember, No means No
I hope you see the implications: there are no ordinary taxi-men, maids, news paper vendors, principals, politicians or police officers. Every person and any person you interact with – is someone you should aim to appreciate and enrich in some way.
What do you think about what C.S. Lewis has stated?