A Different Seat

I was having breakfast with friends at a restaurant where we had all been before. One of them commented on how nicely they had done the restaurant and said the renovations looked great. Only they hadn’t done anything. The only other time he had been there, he sat with his back to the room. This day, he was sitting with his back to the wall, facing into the room.

Where we sit matters. The views from different parts of a room are not all the same.

Perspective is the way we see something. The word comes from a Latin root meaning “look through.” Perspective is literally looking through a particular lens or from a particular place. The connotation being that the lens or position impacts and affects the view.

You can try this out easily wherever you are. Try moving around the room you are in. Sit on the floor. Stand on a chair. Stand in a space you rarely enter. Notice how the room appears to be different depending on your position, or perspective. It’s amazing how just moving around a room can make things look so different.

Imagine how different things would look if you moved around your community.

I went to a concert once where the only ticket I could get was for a seat with an “obstructed view.” This meant there was something in the way of me seeing the entire stage (in this case, a column that was holding up the roof). Don’t get me wrong, I was glad I got to hear the band and mostly see the show. However, I did not have the same experience as someone in a good seat near the front.

There are people in our communities that have spent their lives sitting in an obstructed view seat. It is easy to dismiss their situation by saying, “Hey, they are at the show.” However, their experience has been very different from other people’s. Recently, I was talking with a friend of mine about this. I asked him what it will take for us to understand and begin to make changes that will make a difference in people’s lives. He said, “Proximity.”

This is another way to say, “relationship.” We cannot understand another person’s perspective from where we normally sit. We cannot relate to another person’s situation unless we are doing life together at some level. We have to be in it to understand it. Granted, this is not entirely possible or in some cases even partially possible. This is true though. If we never get up and go spend some time in a different section of the arena, we are likely to underestimate how good the view is from our seats and how much difference it makes to have great seats.

Leadership requires awareness. I must acknowledge that my beliefs, attitude, words, and actions are influenced by the seat I have gotten to occupy. Other people, in other seats, may see the things I do from a different perspective and have very different beliefs and attitudes. We are all watching the same show, but we are not all getting the same view.

Communities should be striving to help all their members move to different seats, better seats. People in the great seats need to see things from the obstructed view and nosebleed seats. People who have spent their lives in seats without a view should be given opportunities to change their seat. This is only going to happen through relationships. This is only going to happen when we believe it should happen.

I do not know what all the answers are. I know shouting at each other and making wild claims will not make a positive difference in anyone’s life. Getting up and trying to see what the view is like from a different seat is the only way I can begin to understand another person’s perspective. Ultimately, relationship is the only way to make a difference. Relationship gives us a shared perspective and is the basis of the Bison Way.