Coach’s Challenge for December 10, 2006
Good day, team,
Part of my morning walk includes strolling through the park not far from my home; I especially love the large trees and duck pond there.
One morning last week, I could hear music playing somewhere near the duck pond. The sound was faint, so I couldn’t make out what I was hearing, but I headed for it anyway.
As I approached the pond, I saw a man sitting on a park bench with a horde of ducks and geese surrounding him. At first it seemed odd, that all of the birds were out of the pond and at his feet, but I thought perhaps he was feeding them.
As I got closer, I saw that the man was dressed shabbily and drinking something from a bottle in a brown paper bag. I immediately thought, “This guy is homeless and a drunk.” That combination spells danger to me, so I turned in the other direction.
As I began to walk away, the music began again, and the birds began to chime in. I turned around to have another look. The man I’d made sure to avoid was playing a harmonica-he played extremely well-and as he did, the ducks would quack, quack, quack and the geese would honk, honk, honk. Even a seagull let out a screech.
The birds were completely drawn in by this fellow’s music. When he stopped playing to take another drink, they stopped too. But they stayed right where they were, in silence, cocking their heads and staring intensely at him, as if waiting for him to play. When he began again, they chimed right in with their honks and quacks and screeches. It was quite a cacophony of sound.
The entire scene made me laugh. What an unexpected pleasure, to see these birds treating this man like he was the Pied Piper! I was glad they had helped me look at him a second time and see an entirely different dimension. Maybe he was a homeless drunk and maybe not-for all I knew he was drinking apple juice out of that bag and had worn his old clothes to the park that day-but he was definitely the music-maker for the birds, and they were completely enthralled by him and his music.
I learned two lessons on my walk that morning. First, how easy it is to make snap judgments about other people. The mind is excellent at identifying things and defining people based on quick observations. However, we often miss the opportunity to see more about another person when we make a quick judgment and leave it at that.
Second, I understood that respecting others really does mean being willing to take a second look. The word “re-spect” literally means to “look again.” If I hadn’t been willing to look at the man on the bench a second time, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the unexpected delight he brought to the birds and to me while being so entertaining.
Your challenge this week is to try not to make snap judgments. Try to be willing to respect others enough to look at them again in a new way, with open eyes that can see something different about them. Your first thought about someone might be right, but it could also be a misjudgment and if so, you may miss the chance to see another dimension of that person’s character. He or she might just surprise and delight you and, just like the birds, you might experience an event that makes you want to sing!
Have a great week!