SCOT BELLAVIA: If I Were You

0

“Wow! You made that door look easy!”

I cringed as I heard my boss say this to the ADA Coordinator who uses a wheelchair when they met to discuss installing an automatic door opener at our building.

Eventually, the automatic door button was installed. Still, I wonder if its delay wasn’t a result of government red tape, but spite – the coordinator’s reaction to my boss’s unintentional but egregious insensitivity.

In my boss’s mind, telling the coordinator that she “made that door look easy” was a compliment. Because my boss has never used a wheelchair, opening a door while sitting seemed like a confusing and impossible task. But the coordinator, who has used a wheelchair most of her life, long ago found a way to overcome the challenging physics. For her, it’s not tricky as my boss would imagine. From her perspective, compliments for this mundane task should be reserved for a three-year-old boy straining at an especially heavy door.

As much as I am a proponent of absolute truth, I also recognize that our experience colors our understanding of the world. We can learn how others interpret the world differently than we might first assume through conversation and relationships.

Another example: my wife and I have chosen more restrictive logistics than some friends and family to avoid getting COVID-19. From their perspective, it seems we are “living in fear,” as if we became agoraphobic, shaking in our slippers as news headlines race across the TV screen, locking us in like police line tape.

Their misunderstanding comes from a desire to see us in person but also the logical fallacy of a single cause – that there is only one possible cause for some effect. In their minds, there is only one possible reason that we would exercise these precautions: a mortal fear of the virus. Rather, we feel we would survive the virus but the inconvenience of quarantining if we contracted it would be overwhelming in light of our job situations.”

Each of us is so willing to offer how we’d do things if we were in the hot seat without actually considering how our perspective would change from the hot seat.

No sports fan truly thinks a coach or referee hears their recommendations from the living room. Political commentators on prime time do not expect their expertise to alter a candidate’s campaign methods. Yet, when we watch Jeopardy!, it seems so apparent to us that the question is, “What is a trapezoid?”, not “Who is Beyoncé?”

I’ve noticed that many of my articles end with a “should” statement. But who am I to tell you that what I say on a topic I consider important should change your behavior?

So, I’ll end by saying what I’m doing to look at the world from someone else’s perspective. I’m reading a book called Misreading Scripture through Western Eyes. I’m learning that what I assume to be a clear interpretation of the Bible is an incomplete reading, drawn from a Western worldview. Hopefully, this paradigm-shifting will extend to relationships, making me more sensitive to others and their understanding of the world.

– Scot Bellavia