“Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in.”
― Alan Alda
Growing up in a tiny Tennessee town with a mother who was a sweet Sooner from Oklahoma and a father who was a brilliant Boilermaker from Indiana, I was exposed to ways of thinking sometimes different from my friends whose parents might have been both from the south. Sweet tea wasn’t a staple in our home, but open mindedness surely was, and that is something for which I am so grateful. Marrying a handsome Hilltopper from Kentucky, we raised our children with a mixture of different ways of thinking, and I’m glad to say we’ve all survived despite any mistakes I’ve made. Finally, today, I’m happy just being me in a sea of people with different roots, different beliefs, and different ways of living. My assumptions, along with my windows on the world, became a little clouded along the way, as often happens on a long journey. Challenging those assumptions was no easy or overnight feat, but letting in the light has come with great rewards.
I recently traveled to a place I once lived for a time as a young woman (East Nashville) and was reminded of how happy I am to have challenged my assumptions in order to open the windows on my world. You see, in the years between East Nashville and today, I developed clouded windows. My view of people had not always been so clouded, but as I worked to fit into what I assumed was the appropriate look of a wife and mom, I didn’t really know what to do with people who were too different from the person I was. After all, if they looked differently, talked differently, lived differently, and especially believed differently than I did, I was sometimes uncomfortable. I was always nice, mind you, just uncomfortable and unsure of myself.
I don’t think it’s a question of your being a Republican or a Democrat, a conservative or a liberal, a Presbyterian or a Baptist, or a Christian, a Buddhist, or an Atheist. I think that whenever you find yourself in one group or school of thought, it is sometimes difficult to allow for other ways of thinking, without our ever realizing it. Since I know that religion and politics are the two topics we should never broach, I’ll steer clear, but will drive home the point that when we, in any of the aforementioned groups, open windows to a world we’ve been afraid to view before, we might discover we have missed out on so much life and so many wonderful relationships.
What assumptions do you realize you’ve made? Perhaps you assumed that all people of a certain race, religion, or political party were good or bad, that all people working for a particular company were kind or rude, or that every kid with saggy pants listening to hip hop was a thug. It’s so easy to make assumptions about people, isn’t it? Guess what? Chances are, people have made assumptions about you. What other people have decided to believe about you is out of your control, but how you present yourself to others is completely within your control, as is how you choose to accept others just as they are.
Sitting in a ‘hip’ coffee shop in this area that was once my home, I saw people from many walks of life. I smiled at how differently my view of them is now from how it was fifteen years ago. If they had been wearing hats and coats, they would have all looked much alike. With shirtsleeves, however, tattoos were clearly visible. With hats removed, beautiful shades of red and blue greeted me. I overheard introductions and conversations and thought about how like me many of them really were.
Their lifestyles, hair colors, and piercings might be different from mine, but their hearts are created exactly as mine is, and their value to society is exactly what mine is.
With wise and kind family and friends, I have come to lose the assumptions that I mistakenly made along the way and see clearly that looks can be deceiving, and a person’s value is often easily overlooked.
My friends and I do not all believe the same things about faith, health, marriage, children, and life. We challenge each other and encourage each other to never make assumptions, but instead to trust that not one of us has all of the answers. I learn from everyone I know. I’m sorry for those who have found that they are more comfortable behind their clouded windows because they are truly missing out on the best life has to offer.
If you’ve never met me, I can tell you that I’ll be the one with the windows scrubbed clean, welcoming every view the world has for me, and I’ll have some window cleaner and newspaper in case you’d like to clear your own view. You’ll be amazed at the beauty that shines into your life when you allow the light to come into view!