August 6, 2007

Good day, team,

This week, your challenge is to see things from a different perspective. As we get older, our attitudes and opinions become more set in stone, and it becomes more difficult for us to change our viewpoint. And yet we all know how refreshing it is to experience a completely different viewpoint that broadens our vision. It’s always exciting to talk with someone, completely convinced of our view of things, and hear new information that suddenly expands our perspective. When we hear ourselves say, “I never thought of it that way; it sounds like a good idea,” we open up to new possibilities and a feeling of lightness and freedom.

One of the great benefits of traveling to places you’ve never been before is that it gives you the chance to see things for the first time. Recently, I went to Israel on business. During my week there, I was able to visit the city of Jerusalem with a guide. As luck would have it, I had the guide all to myself for the day (he usually takes 4 to 6 people at a time), and he was able to take me to places that he would not normally take a group.

At one point during my tour, we traveled on foot through back streets, behind old buildings and up hidden staircases, until we arrived on a rooftop where we had a 360 degree view of the city. We looked down on the old city, where so many different religious communities live closely together: Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Amazingly, all these different communities exist within a few feet of each other (the entire old city takes up less that one square mile), though their beliefs and customs are completely different. The buildings around us were all pretty much the same—the white stone was old and weathered, laundry hung from porch clotheslines, flower boxes spilled over with geraniums, and a variety of sights and sounds emanated from darkened windows that protect the residents from the bright, hot sun. The smell of ethnic foods wafted through the air as people prepared their daily lunch.

I stood there in amazement. How was it possible that people of such different religious and cultural beliefs could live so closely together? While religious and cultural conflicts continue among them as they have for centuries, these people, who live less than a few feet from each other, go about their daily lives in relative peace and prosperity.

I heard a sound from the alley below. A small boy, seven or eight years old, was kicking a soccer ball. Long curls fell beneath his yarmulke on either side of his face. He was totally absorbed in kicking the ball with the side of his foot, back and forth along the alley way, totally oblivious to what was around him. No more than a quarter of a mile away stood the infamous Dome of the Rock, its golden roof gleaming in the sunlight, the place where Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son to God. No more than 100 yards from him, Muslim families were having their lunch. In the other direction, Christians were doing the same. Above him, in his own home, his mother prepared kosher food.

For this young boy, in this moment, his perspective on the world was all about how well he could kick that soccer ball. All of the strife and wars that had occured in this place over so many centuries didn’t exist. He was just like any other boy of similar age in any other country, absorbed in the moment by what he loved to do: kick a soccer ball. His view of the world was just that alley way.

From my perspective, on the rooftop, I was able to see in all directions. I realized that my view of this part of the world before I visited Israel was much like the young boy’s, innocent about what exists elsewhere and limited to my small view of the world from the United States. Now that I have visited Israel and Jerusalem, my view has expanded and my understanding has increased. I never would have believed that people of such different faiths and customs could live a few feet from each other and go about their daily lives doing many of the same things: hanging wash, preparing food, caring for their families.

Your challenge this week is to seek out a way to expand your vision and your understanding of the world. Maybe it’s by reading something new about a part of the world you know nothing about, or seeing a film about a person who influenced history. Perhaps you go to a restaurant that prepares ethnic cuisine you’ve never tried before or speak with someone at work who is proud of a cultural heritage different from your own. Whatever it is, try expanding your view: to gain more understanding and make your life more interesting.

Have a great week!


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