What you see is not always all there is to see.

When I took this photo of the window washers, I was focused on capturing the three individuals hanging off the side of the building.

They looked ethereal. Surreal. Courageous.

I stood and watched and wondered about what was happening for them in that moment of hanging around on the side of a glass building.

Were they talking to one another? Were they talking politics? Telling jokes? Laughing at us wee humans down below on the sidewalk?

What was going on?

I loaded the photo to instagram, again calling attention to the 3 individuals hanging together.

And then, I noticed the fourth person. The one down in the bottom left corner.

I hadn’t noticed them when I took the photo. Didn’t even realize they were there.

How often does that happen in my life, I wondered? That I become so focused on what is right before my eyes, I don’t notice the things happening on the periphery. The stories unfolding elsewhere on the page before me?

Life is a huge tapestry of people and animals, plants, things in constant motion. It is always changing. Always evolving.

Sometimes, it’s easy to get so immersed into seeing what’s right in front of us, good or bad, we don’t stop to remember all around us there is a whole world of possibility unfolding.

And I wonder.

What story was the lone window washer telling themselves about the fact they were not part of the big story unfolding up above?

Did they realize no one noticed them?

Did they think they were the big story?

Did they even give a single thought to the people below (there were several of us watching the 3 window washers) or were they so engrossed in their work, they were oblivious to everything else?

It’s all in our perspective.

We can either see only the obvious things on our path, or the treasures at the edges.

We can see the troubles or the possibilities. The ugliness or the beauty. The unhappy stories or the glad tidings.

It all depends on where we put our attention, and how willing we are to look beyond the obvious to the periphery of our imagination and vision for other perspectives, differering stories.

I took a picture of three window washers. The fourth one held the bigger story for me.


Someone who always inspires me in seeing beyond the obvious is Ann Koplow at her blog “The Year(s) of Living Non-Judgmentally“. Everyday she posts photos of things she sees and always, she enchants me with her sights and insights. Check her out! Maybe you’ll be enchanted too!

Stop Judging

I had coffee with a dear friend yesterday, one of my oldest here in this city. I needed his guidance on something and he gladly offered up his time.

As we sat and talked and laughed and shared our hopes and dreams and challenges I was struck by how much we have both been ‘made different’ through this friendship.

My friend is pragmatic. He can always serve up a dour perspective on life and the economy, on government’s and social movements that states, ‘we are all going to hell in a handbasket’. In his pragmatic approach I have learned to listen to and honour another perspective, to hear another’s voice with awe and gratitude. And in that hearing, I let go of criticism, and the need to change the other to my point of view and open up to learning and growing on the common ground of respect for one another.

I am less pragmatic, taking a more Pollyanna approach to life and living. I want him to see the goodness in all mankind, the possibility of ‘better’, the imperative of kindness and letting people be their experiences while ensuring no one dies on our streets. His response has generally been, “Then let them experience cleaning up, getting a job, getting on with life. It’s not a free-ride.”

When I worked at the homeless shelter, I struggled to convince him to see the world of homelessness through my eyes. And he resisted my insistence he was wrong to view the world his way. Go figure. Over time, I quit insisting he see it my way by admitting the errors of his way, and moved into a place where his way had equal voice. And in that shift, everything shifted. We were both made different. We both let go of our intransigent views and opened up to the possibilities of another way — another way that lead to the building of common ground for the mutual benefit of all. Where once the line was drawn and we could not cross the barriers of our convictions, the light has filtered in, creating softness in those places where once only hard rock theories abounded.

To make a difference in the world I must let go of my insistence that my way is the only way. Years ago, while healing from an abusive relationship that almost cost me my life, I asked my therapist, “If I’m an experiential learner, why is it I need such big experiences to get to where I want to be?”

And he replied, “There were a thousand paths you could have taken. This just happens to be the one you took. Accept where you’re at and stop judging the journey. Where you’re at is where you’re at. Period.”

To make a difference in the world I must stop judging where others are at and find the common ground of where we all live in a world where everyone has value and every point of view creates a world we can live in without fear.