As mortals, we are so accustomed to having an extremely limited perspective, that we almost constantly forget it. We can look inward and know that we know so little about the vast majority of people with whom we interact. We can even recognize circumstances that make those people different from us, and think how grateful we are that we weren’t raised that way, that our mother didn’t do drugs, or that we didn’t have to endure or deal with this of that abuse or deprivation in tangible wealth, or worse, knowledge.
Without getting into why some are subjected to ignorance and scarring trial against any type of deserving we understand, it is necessary to accept it as fact that men are not born equal in all things. So we are in a position where it can at times be difficult to say, as Emerson, that “every man I meet is my superior in some way.”
I have determined that more important than consciously contemplating these concepts is merely being kind and perceptive.
The reason people use the term “thoughtful” to describe caring and kindness is because it incorporates the perceptivity that gives these other qualities all of their effectiveness.
I recently asked two different professors at BYU for an extension of an assignment deadline in the last two weeks. One I approached and asked this: Thursday I will be weighing in for my first MMA fight at the time as class when the review is due. I’m going to be dehydrated the next two days leading up to then and really out of it, and especially with the fight on Friday I will have a lot of things to focus on, so may I please hand it in next class period? Her no was very short and flippant. At the risk of being judgemental myself, she certainly appeared to be the opposite of an MMA enthusiast in every way, but there was no explanation offered with her denial; only a chuckle of entertainment at my request. I didn’t press. Just walked away, but what my professor didn’t hear was, “I’m scared. I have a cough. I don’t know how this is going to go. I can’t read two sentences without getting distracted by visions of someone trying to knock me out, and how I will react. Writing essays are the hardest homework assignments I have because I don’t have access to a keyboard that doesn’t require a power outlet to work, besides that of my phone, because I got sent home from my mission for 6 months and don’t want to buy a functional laptop when I’m immediately leaving for another year, and there are no power outlets in my car, where I sleep while I attend school mon-thurs.
Needless to say, I wrote the essay and it really wasn’t a big deal. Maybe it was a good thing I forced myself to put hours into a relatively non-stressful activity. The quality is certainly lower than it would have been if written after the fight, though. However, contrast the situation with my women’s health professor, who I e-mailed minutes before midnight on the due date for a short paper. The part of the story I told her was this: I had the opportunity to spend the day with my sister who is visiting from Japan and I thought I would have time to write the essay tonight after she left, but I unexpectedly had to do hours of paperwork for an athletic competition next weekend, which I just finished. I will be able to write it first thing tomorrow. When she responded, it was to ask if I had a good time with my sister and to wish me good luck in the competition. She accepted the late paper without a question, even though she had no idea, that at midnight that night, I was on the computer and printer system of a family I had met that night because my sister was staying there, the same system I timidly asked if I could use to print the 13 pages I had to fill out and sign–including such topics as accidental death reimbursement–then individually scan each page back in and send that night because the promoter got me on the card and sent the contract the very last day possible. It was a night I had the rare opportunity to sleep on a couch… so with it being practically midnight I opted to sleep for the 5 hours I could before driving the hour back to class in Provo, rather than staying up to write a paper that would already be late and sleeping on a bench during the afternoon on campus.
I am so blessed in every facet of my life. I love the way I live and my every need and want is provided for. My troubles are trivial and self-inflicted, but even so, this teacher’s thoughtfulness toward me was deeply appreciated. How many others are in complicated living situations not by choice and have it so much worse. They aren’t going to tell you everything they are going through. You wouldn’t believe it if they did, and maybe rightly so. Respectable people don’t just communicate like that, but as nice as it would be if everyone was 100% transparent, it’s not necessary. It is only necessary to be kind. The amazing thing about the kind people I interact with every day is they have no idea how appreciated their actions and words are, but someday they will know. All of us have the opportunity to touch lives on the most meaningful level. If you are not naturally perceptive but desire your kindness to be effective, don’t worry. That is the role of the Spirit. As you pray for the Spirit’s guidance you may not know when someone is hurting, but you’ll know what to do about it, as you act in faith under His power of discernment.