I drive a 2010 blue Nissan Altima. It’s not fancy, fits my personality, and gets me from here to there.
I don’t drive a Ferrari. They are sleek, sexy, drive incredibly fast, and will make heads turn.
If you parked my blue Nissan next to a blue Ferrari and stood by them, the differences would be obvious. Although they’re both blue, and have an engine and wheels, they are completely different machines. My Nissan is practical, simple, and gets good gas mileage. The Ferrari goes from 0 – 60 mph in less than 3 seconds, is made with top of the line materials, and is detailed to the 100th of a centimeter.
Imagine sitting in a Ferrari. The Italian leather wraps itself around you. Even sitting still, you would be sure putting it into gear would be a life-changing event. It feels very good. My Nissan also has leather, but is only moderately comfortable and a ride would be forgettable.
The differences are obvious.
Step back 10 feet from the two cars. The beauty of the Ferrari is even more intoxicating. Her silky lines remind you of a beautiful goddess and you can only imagine what it would feel like to own one. My Nissan, although 9 years old, is clean and shiny. But if you saw it driving down the street, you wouldn’t take a second look.
You would really like to take the Ferrari home.
Now turn around and walk a football field away. At 100 yards, the differences between the vehicles have begun to fade. As you squint and see two blue cars, you notice the differences but if you don’t exactly know what you are looking at. If you hadn’t started up close, you wouldn’t even be sure what kind of cars they are.
At a mile away, you see just two blue shapes. Are they cars or barrels? The differences are imperceptible. If you got to choose which one to take home for free, you’d randomly pick right or left without knowing the value of each.
This is how it can be with our perspectives of people. When we’re far away, it’s impossible to see their value.
We simply don’t know.
But sometimes we think we’re close enough to make a judgment, but we aren’t. We draw unwise conclusions simply because we’re not close enough. We critique people by their gender, skin color, and how they dress, . . . but we’re very far away from knowing what they’re made of. Our distance doesn’t allow us to see their strengths and weaknesses. We don’t know the complexity of their being, the experiences they’ve had, and the gifts they’ve been given.
If we got closer, we’d choose the Ferrari.
What would it take to get close enough to see the value in people? If it were a car, we’d ask the price. What if we could ask the price people have paid to become who they are? We might find out the cost has been very high. A person may have battled drug addiction, been abandoned as a child, or suffered a traumatic loss. If we could only perceive these costs, we may begin to consider a person’s value differently.
How do we get enough perspective to determine a person’s worth? If it were a car, we’d give it a test drive. But with people, we need to hear their stories, walk a mile in their shoes, or understand the journey they’ve been on. By listening to others, we gain a broader viewpoint.
When I’m a mile away, I cannot perceive the details which make up a person’s beauty.
We must be standing close enough to see the qualities of a person. To figuratively move from a mile away to being close, we need to spend time with them, ask them questions, and listen to their perspective.
Whose life are you a mile away from? Is it an immigrant, a person of color, or the neighbor you have never spoken to? Is it your son-in-law, your estranged brother, or the person in the next cubicle? Physical distance doesn’t matter. It’s our efforts to gain perspective by listening that do. We all start miles and miles away.
Only with our effort to get nearer do we gain a broader perspective.