Have you ever felt as though you were talking past someone, rather than with them?
Our culture tends to see roles, not people.
People tend to see Professor Ferrar, not Tony. Tony is a guy in his early thirties who has a wife and a kid. Sometimes his kid keeps him up all night and sometimes he and his wife have disagreements (Always his fault hah). Tony likes to read comic books and go rock climbing. Tony has bills and student loans and a car that breaks down. Tony has dishes to do and games to play with friends. Tony lives far from his family and wishes he could see them more.
Professor Ferrar stands in the front of the room and gives people homework. Professor Ferrar assigns grades and decides if I get an extension on my project. Professor Ferrar writes exams and deals with cheaters. Professor Ferrar attends meetings and knows everything there is to know about Fluid Dynamics.
It works both ways. Many faculty see students, not people.
Students want extensions on homework. Students want points back on exams. Students want to cancel class and start packing up five minutes early. Students want to do the least work possible to earn the grade they want. Students want to know if “that’s going to be on the exam.”
Except they’re also people.
With hopes and dreams and fears. People who aren’t sure if they’ll be able to register for classes because a parent didn’t send a form in for financial aid. People who have to live with roommates to afford rent and electricity. People who wonder if they’ll get jobs or find love. People who want to have some fun and make some memories but also succeed. People who are scared of being reduced to a number in a computer system.
It’s a lot safer to view someone as their role, rather than as a human person. It’s easy to enter an ‘F’ for Jones, Alexander 94054228. It’s a lot harder to give Alex an ‘F.’
My simple fix:
Whenever I make eye contact with someone, I am training myself to think “I love you.”
“I love you” reminds me that this is a person, with a complex life. I am reminded that we need not compare whose struggles are more difficult: relativity doesn’t matter. If someone is going through the hardest thing they’ve ever faced, then they’re going through the hardest thing they’ve ever faced. How can I help?
I love you. Thank you for sharing your precious time with me by reading these words. I pray blessings and joy for you today.