Standing on the shoreline of a body of water cut from glacial forces, I can’t help but marvel at the tens – if not hundreds of thousands – of small rocks surrounding my boots. All created from hard surfaces, their edges softened over time, their jagged elbows replaced by accommodating surfaces. And I wonder, can we learn from a pile of rocks?
A stretch, but hang with me a moment.
Even the tallest mountain ranges have eroded more than remains to the naked eye. And much like a rock, I’ve found my temperament soften and my desire to better understand others expand with each trip around the sun. Once I, too, was a jagged rock covered in sharp edges. Today, after decades of the waters of life coursing over, my edges are softer and more understanding of the world around me. I am less likely to judge quickly and far more interested in learning how we can exist together.
But I am not a rock. I’m a human being and filled with all the drama built into my DNA.
Recently while traveling in the Pacific Northwest, I watched a restaurant owner ask several people to leave for not wearing a mask.
On the door read a sign “Please wear a mask before entering our restaurant. We don’t like it either, but let’s all do what we can to get through this together.”
Not forceful and not rude. The owner even thanked potential customers on behalf of the health of the employees and other customers.
The group of three young men, with their jagged edges on full display, wished to argue the merits of the restaurant owner’s note.
I sat watching, understanding both sides. But my rounded edges reminded me the owner is only asking a customer to help him keep him from getting his doors shut down. He knows some may wish not to come inside, but he is between – pardon the pun in the context of this piece – a rock and hard place.
I’ve been those guys before, more wound up on using my youthful edges to chip away at the world. What I lost, however, was the ability grow from experiences gained by looking through the eyes of others. And in learning to be more open, viewing challenges from the other’s point of view, I’ve also found more happiness and success in life.
You can fit more rounded rocks in a jar than those with uneven and jagged edges. The former look for ways to adjust and make room for others to join in; the latter wedge themselves into place and fights like hell, never giving an inch to accommodate others.
Time, like the waters rolling against these once raw and jagged stones, changes many of us by washing away our quick to anger tendencies and resistance to seeing the world from another’s point of view.
I placed a beige rounded stone the size of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup into my jacket pocket. Mother Nature is holding class again.