Fresh eyes can make all of the difference in the world. I just finished a wonderful conversation with a great and inspiring friend. She is in her mid-twenties, and contributes to the world in a way that would put most people to shame, myself included: she pretty much fosters teens who have been estranged from their families. She takes them in to her very modest apartment and provides love, life and encouragement.
But this isn’t the only thing that she does. Her jobs also focus on helping others. She works where many people – including me – would be afraid to work. She has been a youth worker in the inner city, helping troubled kids after school. These kids come from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences. And these kids can bring a lot of drama to the center where my friend works.
But this friend also brings fresh eyes to her work situation and sees the potential in these kids as opposed to their limitations, their histories and their supposed ‘damages’.
I completely understand how easy it is to judge people and assume the worst in them. It’s easy to learn a few things about someone, extrapolate some erroneous conclusions about them, and then stick them into a particular box in my brain, labeled with whatever moniker I deem fit.
But I of all people should know what it feels like to be labeled unfairly. I’ve been living for years inside of a body that wasn’t my own and am only now getting to show people who I truly am, after shedding nearly a hundred pounds.
And that’s the worst of it all: no one can really know what you’re capable of until after you’ve done it. Even I didn’t know what was inside of me until I challenged myself and started to tackle my obesity. There’s been a lot of latent potential in me that I’ve wanted to live out, but for so many reasons, just hadn’t. My excuses have been my priority.
But back to my awesome friend. Recently, she changed jobs. Not to something easier, more relaxing, or better paying. Now, she’s actually working nights in a youth shelter. The stakes at her new job are even higher, helping teens and young adults during some of the hardest times, such as coming off of drug highs. She helps them to survive the nights and hopefully make tomorrow a different day.
She’s only been in the position a few days, but already has encouraging news to report. Unlike many of her cohorts, who have been working in the center for months or years, she’s brand new. Because of this, she brings a fresh new perspective. While some of her coworkers have long lost the hope that a certain kid will turn his life around or do anything other than what he’s used to, my friend brings an opposite approach. She sees the potential in the kids. She knows that at any time, anyone of them can decide to make a stand, to give up on their old destructive life and to adopt a new one.
But I don’t think this can solely be attributed to the fact that she’s new to the team. I know that even over the course of years, this girl will still continue to believe for the change that can turn someone’s whole life around for good. It’s not simply a matter of being new to the situation; it’s a matter of bringing a new spirit along with her.
This is perhaps the most inspiring thing that I love about this friend. At such a young age, she’s learned to walk that very fine line between naively believing in people, always giving them chance after chance to ruin the trust and rapport earned over time, and believing in people enough that they gain the confidence to become the better version she sees they can become.
When I first moved to the neighbourhood I live in now, I remember going for a walk and gawking at the large, beautiful homes down the street. But now, only a little over a year later, I can walk that same street and barely glance at those same homes that once inspired awe in me. They’ve become old and familiar.
Life and relationships can become that way too, if we let them. We can easily overlook the things that have become familiar. But we can choose an opposite approach. We can choose to look even more closely, more curiously at those relationships, at our lives and discover newness every day. We can do this because we’re constantly learning and gaining new information. In essence, we’re brand new. And we can take our fresh new eyes and look deep into our situations, our work, our friendships, our loves and bring a whole new perspective to them and from that new vision, we can have a whole new experience.
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