Flooded By Perspective

 In Ideas & Information


Last month I wrote a blog post about the power and value of experiencing another’s perspective. Shortly after posting the article, I took an unexpected, profound walk in “someone else’s shoes.”

I happened to be in Boulder, Colorado, during last month’s epic flooding.  As the unusual weather persisted over days, I heard stories of mudslides, swelling creeks and flooding basements. Bummer I thought, while remaining a detached and somewhat relieved observer.  Good I didn’t live by a hillside or creek. No need to worry, we don’t have a basement.

As the rainfall intensified and news spread of flash floods and lives lost, I recognized I was living in a community seriously impacted by the weather.  Still, the storm wasn’t impacting me beyond the inconvenience of getting soaked every time I ran an errand. My denial was abruptly shattered as roads closed, travel became treacherous and, most significantly, flash flood waters ran through the first floor of our town home for over eight hours.

Interestingly, it was as I frantically moved furniture and books from the downstairs to the upstairs that I began walking in someone else’s shoes.  I kept thinking about the victim’s of hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. This is what they experienced, felt, endured.

Like so many, I follow the news about a natural disaster. I am shocked and in awe, horrified and saddened.  I check in with friends and family who may be affected. I may text the Red Cross a donation.  And within days, as the news cycle moves on, so does my interest and concern.

Until our house had filled with water (in under 15 minutes), I didn’t get it.  I didn’t get what it is like to experience that kind of fear, loss and devastation firsthand. None of us do until we actually experience it.

Now, I am not suggesting we all need to experience a natural disaster to empathize. Nor am I suggesting that next time there is a natural disaster we all stop what we are doing and race to help. Rather, I wanted to share this personal story about the power of perspective. I walked (and am stilling walking) a mile in soggy shoes.  My understanding increased, which in turn, has exponentially increased my compassion. I hope in the future this increased awareness will impact my actions – that I will make bigger donations, actually take time to lend a helping hand.  At minimum, I know I will be better at understanding what those affected are going through.