South Bay Congregation
4250 Kirk Road, San Jose, CA 95124

Barbara Walking in the Valley
A weekly column for those who live and walk in Silicon Valley

by Barbara Dahlgren

Keeping Perspective
Column for the week of September 29-October 5, 2002

Neat and tidy! That's how I like it! A place for everything and everything in its place. I like routine, order, organization. I like life to run smoothly and at an even keel. Don't rock my boat. Don't rattle my cage. Don't shake my tambourine. Don't upset my apple cart. And don't keep me from marking off a number on my "to-do" list.

Unfortunately life is not neat and tidy. It's messy. Just ask those people whose homes were destroyed by the fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains this past week. Unforeseeable events happen. Life is full of policemen knocking on doors to tell someone about a car accident, phone calls from a doctor's office informing someone of cancer, or a surprise pink slip from an employer.

About 3 years ago I got a phone call informing me that my sister and her whole family had been killed instantly in a car crash. That's how quickly true devastation can come. Instantly. My "to-do" list fell by the wayside as I flew back to the Mid-west for the funeral and to try to comfort my folks even though I was heartsick myself. Suddenly my whole perspective changed. A flat tire, a snoring spouse, a missed appointment, a late airplane, a lost game, the guy who cut me off in traffic, the gossipy co-worker, the slow Internet connection, the stock market being down, my weight being up didn't seem like quite as big a deal as they did before.

Perspective is an interesting word. It's supposed to mean a point of view that shows events in their true relationship with each other or the ability to see things they way they really are. That isn't the case with most people. We see things from our perspective not they way they really are. Therefore our perspective becomes our reality. The Bible speaks of this. "As a man thinks, so he is." (Proverbs 23:7) The mind is a wondrous thing. When something out of the ordinary happens in our day-to-day lives, our perspective changes. That's because we have something to compare it to. Let's see, now! A traffic jam versus the death of a loved one? Which one is the real devastating experience?

We would all be happier and more content if we could keep an accurate perspective at all times. Anger, fear, and frustrations would subside. We would be less apt to "sweat the small stuff" and more prone to appreciate what we have. We might try to give people the benefit of the doubt and perhaps think twice before shooting our mouth off. We could truly empathize with those who go through tragedies instead of just being grateful it isn't us.

No, life is not neat and tidy. But when those day-to-day messes occur, we can do ourselves a favor by keeping good perspective. There is a difference between one rainy day and a flood. What doesn't get done today, will get done tomorrow. And if it doesn't, the world won't come to an end. I've finally learned that the world doesn't revolve around me. Life doesn't care about my routine, my boat, my cage, my tambourine, my apple cart, or my "to do" list. And that's okay. Because life, itself, is more important, anyway.

©September 2002