Perspective is valuable. Seeing things through someone else’s eyes can cure our self-absorbed myopia. Perspective can help us understand something in a new way and help us empathize with another people.
In the past few weeks I have had several opportunity see things from a different perspective. One event helped me learn more about my city, the other was infinitely more valuable.
New Orleans is tied to the river. The economic importance of the river cannot be underestimated. Ships carrying all types of products from around the globe enter the busy Port of New Orleans.
A few weeks ago, Kimberly, Jonathan and I rode the Creole Queen on a short trip down the river. The first thing I noticed is how different the city looks from the river. The oldest parts of the city are built near the water. The river was the road, the center of commerce. Steps even lead from the river to Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral. Though the cathedral has been changed and expanded over the years, this is the same grand entrance that had greeted visitors since 1794.
Somehow, after my short trip on the river, seeing the city and sharing the “road” with massive ships and barges, I feel more connected with the history of the city. It was a fun ride.
Last Wednesday I gained some more weighty perspective. The perspective came from unlikely sources – an unemployed man and a homeless woman at Ozanam Inn.
Each Wednesday night about a dozen people from First Baptist serve food to more than 230 homeless and underprivileged people who gather at the Oz. Some work, many do not. Many of them spend their nights on the streets.
Last Wednesday we had plenty of volunteers so several of us were free to mingle and talk with the people as they ate. As I spoke with one of the men – I didn’t catch his name – I gained a little perspective on being thankful.
He speculated that I had just come there after a long day at work. He was right. I could tell what he was going to say next before he said it. I could see it in his eyes. “I bet it feels good to have a job.” It does. Like so many others in our country right now, this man wants a job, but doesn’t have one. Why don’t I thank God my job each day? I think I should.
The man finished his first plate of food and went back for seconds. I finished my first helping of perspective and went back for seconds.
I have often seen Gloria at the Oz. I have talked with her before. She is always grateful for the meal. When I greeted her last Wednesday, I started with small talk.
Somehow, Gloria pushed the conversation to deeper level. I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed the recent cooler temperatures. Summer seemed to drag on this year. The fall weather has been refreshing. But I am well-fed with warm clothes, a roof over my head and a comfy bed. The cooler temps were not welcomed by Gloria and the people on the streets. She said that Sunday night was especially cool and windy.
She went on to tell me the struggle it is to find and keep a coat or a blanket. In the New Orleans “winter,” temperatures go up and down and up and down. When it warms up, I put my jacket in the closet. It’s there when I need it. Gloria does not have a place to store coats and blankets. She said she is able to get one free coat from the Oz each winter. When spring arrives, she gives it back. She knows she won’t be able to keep it safe until she needs in again.
Gloria wasn’t looking for sympathy, she was just being real. I am just beginning to appreciate “real.” In a few short minutes I had learned to be more thankful for the things I take for granted. How’s that for perspective?
Scripture: Matthew 9:35-38
Song: “Give me your Eyes” – Brandon Heath