There is a new thing I like to do any chance I get. It’s not for fitness or in order to get to anywhere in particular, but I just put on my active wear and my sons Skull Candy army camo headphones, pump the tunes and walk. Combining three of my favourite things. Music, being active and people watching. Honestly, I could do this all day. Last Saturday, I walked for 4 and a half hours all over Melbourne’s suburbs. As I walk along, I feel like a little ray of sunshine is following me around and I may look like a mad woman, as I always have a huge grin on my face. Sometimes I even giggle to myself. But that is contained considering I spend most of the time really holding in my almost overwhelming need to burst out into full blown song and dance at any given moment. Often at the lights, my hands or legs get away from me and I’ll start to click, tap or sway to the beat but the little green man usually goes before my dance routine gets completely underway.
So I am a proud 3rd generation people watcher. My Nan used to speak of this pastime often and my mum and her best friend, my fairy god mother, used to spend hours sitting in Perth arcades just watching people go about their day. I have definitely followed suit. I just find people so interesting. How they dress, walk, multitask, the energy that surrounds them and usually I have some little story about what I think they’re up to for the ones that really catch my attention. For me it’s not about anything physical, it’s more about how they are conducting themselves or behaving, even if they’re aren’t directly interacting with anyone.
So when Eryka set us homework at my course a few weeks back, I was excited when she said part of it was to actively go out people watching. I thought to myself at the time, too easy I do it all the time anyway, but then came the catch. The purpose of the activity was to go beyond what we as people normally see. The challenge, to take away our judgements and ideas of people by the very surface and external attributes we see and to try to look past that to their souls. Her point and hope for us to conclude is regardless of anything, we are all exactly the same. We are all related, all flawed, all perfect at being ourselves and all wanting to be safe and loved. We are all humans.
My son likes to ask the big questions. So the other day as we were driving, he turned to me and asked about why sometimes people don’t believe you even though you are telling the truth about something. I was tempted to go into the old Boy Who Cried Wolf story as I have with him before, as true for many people, he can be seen to exaggerate occasionally when he isn’t getting the attention he would like. Hey, who hasn’t. But instead, I decided against it this time around as he hadn’t asked in relation to any particular incident so I didn’t want to specify. Instead I drew from my latest people watching experience.
I said, ‘Well truth is actually a funny thing to give an exact meaning to. In every situation they say there are 3 truths. What he said, what she said and what really happened.’ He sat there for a minute then said, ‘So no one really ever tells the truth then’. So I said, ‘Not necessarily, because it is all about perspective’. I lost him. ‘What’s perspective Mum?’ he asked. So to explain, I told him the following story.
The other day as I was on one of my expeditions across the city, I ended up on busy Acland Street in Melbournes beachside suburb St Kilda. The street was, as usual, packed with a mixture of tourists and locals, some relaxing, some looking for a place to eat, some busy rushing around going about their day. There I was grinning to myself because one of my fave songs had started and I was envisaging myself just busting some moves in the middle of the crowd. Then someone caught my eye. A lady looking back at me with a huge smile on her face. We shared in that moment together as we walked toward each other in the street. So what was so different about this moment. This lady was homeless. She was a lady a bit down on her luck, with all her belongings in her trolley, very few teeth and appeared to have not showered for quite a while.
Honestly, initially I didn’t see that. I just saw her smiling back at me. There was a lady walking at the same pace as me right next to me as we approached the homeless lady something interesting happened. The homeless lady raised her hand up at face height in a fist. She pushed it out in front of her. The lady next to me was visibly concerned and jolted away and made sure her path did not have to go past the homeless women. She appeared to feel threatened. But I didn’t see it like that at all. Nope, my instinct was to raise my fist also as I walked past and give the lady with the big smile a fist pump!
It hadn’t even crossed my mind I could’ve been in danger. But the lady next to me was clearly worried. Luckily for me, I read the situation right. We fist pumped and both turned to smile one more time at each other as we walked off to go about the rest of the day. It made my day. And as I walked and thought about it, it is a perfect example of this very human concept of perception.
My son loved my story. I had a yep nailing this parenting thing moment and we then went back to listening to the Macarena on repeat 😬….
So there you go. I don’t know what made me feel safe in that encounter and I don’t know what made the other lady not. I don’t know what she has experienced in her life time and she may even be unaware as to her reasoning for assuming the worst. But the point is our difference in opinion. Our very different perspectives. And other perspectives are vital. I am glad I saw the whole thing as an enjoyable experience but I do need to be reminded at times that there are situations in which the intentions are not so pure.
We all have had different experiences. We all have different perspectives. Keeping an open mind and listening to others points of view is key to life. Let’s all be open to sharing and listening so we can encourage a world of understanding, compassion and growth.
And go give the people watching task a go. I promise, it’s so interesting! You might even get to see this super funky mum with her uber cool army camo headphones taken straight from her sons bedroom, cruising the streets and grinning all the way.
Hey, it’s my perspective 😝
Much love, Michelle xxx