I love my street. It’s not just the central location and accessibility, the wide sidewalks, or the variety of trees, flowers, and succulents decorating an assortment of bungalows and small apartment buildings. It’s not just the interesting and (mostly) warm people. Overall, I’ve been really into the sense of community that comes from living in such close proximity to others. Actually getting to know my neighbors - beyond just recognizing their faces and cars - is a new experience; one that definitely contributes to a feeling of being at home here in my adopted Los Angeles neighborhood.
Awhile ago, I noticed that someone from the area was letting what I imagine must have been a GIANT dog do its business on my front lawn. I wish I meant the dog was taking conference calls and filing its taxes - that would be amazing. But no, someone had been allowing their pet to poop right in front of my house and then neglected to pick it up. This happened several days in a row. All in the same area, right under my dining room window. I mean, hey, I can understand once. Sometimes you’re blocks away from home and you run out of plastic bags. But that many days in succession? It seemed so odd to me that someone would keep repeating this behavior. It was either intentional or just incredibly careless. Did they think no one else would notice? Did they think no one lived at this address? Or that no one ever had to walk by this lawn? It was inconsiderate and it was really pissing me off. So after nearly a week and what looked like a landfill of dog feces, I drew a colorful sign that was hard to ignore and hung it up.
It said: “Please clean up after your dog. I’m sure you’d agree, no one likes looking at poop.”
Miraculously, the behavior ceased and even though the sign stayed up for only a week, I have not seen a return occurrence.
What was it that finally woke this person up to their actions? Did they remember that they also live somewhere and wouldn’t appreciate their front steps being used as a dog's toilet? Did it make them realize that this house wasn’t just a facade but an ACTUAL HOME with ACTUAL PEOPLE inside who had to walk on this ACTUAL GRASS?
Maybe it was a sudden lightbulb moment of understanding -
“Oh! Someone lives there!”
It got me thinking about consideration and the manner in which we treat other people. What if we could remember that someone lives here, someone lives there, someone lives everywhere we go? How would that change the way in which we behave?
In a way, every person we encounter is a house.
Someone lives there - in that body, in that energy field, with that particular identity.
Regardless of their race, their age, their gender, their sexual orientation, or their religion - they are, just like you are, a living, breathing entity.
They are a real person that does not easily fit into a stereotype or box based on your perception.
They are a human being that exists BEYOND and INDEPENDENT FROM your small point of view.
In the grand scheme of the universe, every single person matters.
Everyone we encounter is significant.
In the feature film of their life - they are the main character. We may only see them as playing a supporting role in ours. But they are a leading lady or leading man in their own life experience.
We may assess them, decide they are like THIS or like THAT based on surface identifiers.
But that is just our opinion, our temporary judgment, our close-minded projection.
In truth, they are not the limited being we see them as.
They are not a cliche or a trope or a manifestation of our mind.
They are not like all the members of their race or ethnic group. Whatever we choose to believe that means. Sure, we all carry within our bones the bits and pieces of beliefs and behavior inherited from our ancestors but not everyone wants to continue operating out of these outdated historical stereotypes.
Each being that comes into our awareness is a whole person onto themselves.
They’ve got unique hobbies, career goals, and possessions they adore.
They’ve got pasts they’re ashamed of, secrets they've buried, and insecurities that cause them to overcompensate.
They’ve got people that love them and people that hate them.
They are going through their own personal problems.
They’ve got a catalog of their own life stories.
Just like you do.
Someone lives there.
What if we remembered this before we attacked another person out of frustration?
Or used someone else for our own needy fulfillment?
Or judged someone based on the actions of another person who happens to share the same religious or ethnic identification?
Could we still treat others poorly if we saw their vulnerability, their wholeness, and the softer places in them that we relate to?
It makes me think of that cliche movie/TV situation where a group of guys are at a strip club and someone brings to their attention that the women dancing are actually daughters, sisters and/or mothers. This, of course, makes the men see them as real human beings and not just female body parts writhing before them. It reminds them of their own daughters, sisters and/or mothers which makes it difficult for them to use the women as disposable objects for their own entertainment.
Someone lives there.
Remember when you were in elementary school and you thought your teacher lived in the classroom and never left the school grounds? As if he or she only played one role - that of YOUR teacher? You did this because you were too immature to see beyond yourself. You didn’t have any idea that there was a world that existed outside of your small ego-centric perception.
Well, chances are you may still be looking at another person and forgetting that they exist outside of your point of view. We all have the potential to do this and we all do it regularly. We may not even realize when we’re doing it! It could be the customer service rep at Time Warner Cable, the guy who doesn’t wear deodorant in yoga class, or even the people sharing our beds. We may forget that this other being has an entire universe of emotions, thoughts, and ideas going on within them; they are not just the annoying, smelly, and nagging stock characters we may see them as.
Someone lives there.
When we are young and immature (and when we are older and immature) we may only see people in terms of what they can reflect back to us, about us. In this self-centered mode, we may use other people to inflate our egos, take away our anxiety, or fill some void within us. We may scramble for the love, approval and affection of others because we are unhappy and insecure within ourselves. We see this other person as the answer to our problem and so we chug down their energy as if we were dying of thirst. This is neediness in action; we take complete human beings and place them into small roles within OUR lives. And as a result, they cease to be actual people. Instead they are just objects to us. Bit players. Conquests. Steps to climb on our social Stairmaster. Paper dolls for us to dress up according to our own needs and desires. As far as we are concerned, they don’t do anything all day except wait around for us to show up and start playing with them.
But… someone lives there.
Louise Hay says every problem is a self-love problem and I agree. How we treat others is just a reflection of what’s going on inside of us. When our internal (or external) atmosphere becomes a battlefield, we switch into survival mode and view the world as an unsafe place. We will do whatever we can to make it out alive. When we experience emotional or physical pain, we may operate primarily out of self-preservation and self-protection, building up large and thick walls and barriers. We may continually utilize our defense mechanisms to ward off any potential harm. We can’t always see past ourselves if our basic needs appear to be under threat. In these circumstances, the other people around us often pay the price. As the saying goes, “hurt people hurt people.”
So then, our overall personal joy and happiness directly affects the way in which we deal with others. It makes it much easier to practice consideration when we feel free, safe, and truly secure - which can only come with increased self-acceptance, self-confidence, self-trust, and self-love.
IT ALL GOES BACK TO THE SELF.
When you invest time and energy into feeling better about life and about yourself, life invests in you. Everything gets better. Life is just a mirror and an echo; that other person IS you and what you give to them, you will get back. The more good we are feeling inside, the more good we will experience outside. And vice versa.
We are not separate from the outside world. So therefore, we need to be mindful of how we engage with it.
I’ve been trying to practice more radical compassion and nonjudgmental acceptance, especially when I find myself wandering into egocentric territory or placing blame on others for something I’m really just experiencing within myself. But it’s an ongoing practice. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I slip. We all do. We all can be self-absorbed. We can be careless. We can be so focused on some little or big problem in our own lives that we either forget or we don’t have enough energy to think about how we are affecting others. When I’m cranky, hormonal, or completely thrown off by some life event, I’m less apt to allow another car to merge into my lane. When I’m lost in my emotions over something, I am probably not going to willingly engage in friendly conversation with the checkout person at Trader Joe’s. Sometimes we are so full of angst, grief or anger that we feel the need to project it onto other people so the pressure lessens within our energy field. Life can be really tough at times and we’re all just trying to find comfort and balance. We are all doing the best we can based on our levels of awareness and maturity.
But … what if we could do better?
What if we saw beyond our judgments?
What if we took a moment to see beyond ourselves?
What if we focused on our shared humanity over our separate chosen teams?
What would THAT world look like?
I don’t know.
But I'd love to live there.
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