Saturday, January 23, 2010

We're friends, of course -- what else would we be?

One of my favorite things about Miranda is her warm, convivial nature. Upon meeting someone new, particularly another child, she quickly begins referring to them as her “friend.” “Where’s my friend?” she asks. “Where’s my new friend? And what’s her name?” For her, friendship isn’t bound up in long acquaintances or even name recognition; it often stems from nothing more involved that the mere presence and personhood of the other child. Granted, she gets in your average number of spats with her friends both old and new, but her standard position is one of welcome.

There is something hopeful in this approach to life. In our community we often ask, “What is our reflex? What attitudes and postures are we attempting to cultivate?” If our initial thought about someone is “friend”, our interactions with them will have a fundamentally different tone than if we view them as “foe” or even as a neutral “unknown.” If we normatively grant others the privileged status of one who is included, the very trajectory of our interactions will be realigned.

This point was brought home to me a few months ago, when I was nearly cut off by a minivan as I drove through downtown. As it moved into my lane, I braked and angrily laid on the horn, thinking ugly thoughts about the driver. When the van slowed to let me pass, I saw that the driver was actually a friend of mine from a playgroup. Immediately, my attitude became more understanding and generous; I began to think, “Oh, she’s probably talking to her girls; it’s so difficult driving with kids.” Our positive relationship made a fundamental difference in how I perceived her and her actions, how I responded to her accidental violation of my space. But had she been a stranger, I doubt I would have been as forgiving. This is where I should learn from my daughter.

How can we cultivate this generosity and openness to others? How do we reset our default settings so that the other is spontaneously viewed as friend instead of foe? And how might our lives be different if we succeeded?


Tonjia said...

when we cultivate compassion, we see ourselves in every face. it is my favorite line from "how to train your dragon"..."when I looked at him, I saw myself". It changes everything about everything. not even the same world. It is the world Miranda lives in.

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