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Paradigm Shift

As I navigate my way through Advent this year, more and more I see wilderness moments pop up, some that seem inurmountable until the Light comes on and shines brightly so we can see the way through. The Light comes in many shapes and sizes and sometimes from the most unusual places.

The story below has been rolling around in my mind this Advent, and today it occured to me that it is a beautiful story about the Light coming on when one of us sees life through another one's eyes instead of our own. Stephen Covey in his best-selling book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People tells this story about an incident on a subway as a perfect example of the importance of being open to a paradigm shift, thus open to the Light of Love, of Christ, of Hope.

I was riding a subway on Sunday morning in New York. People were sitting quietly, reading papers, or resting with eyes closed. It was a peaceful scene. Then a man and his children entered the subway car. The man sat next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to his children, who were yelling, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers.

I couldn’t believe he could be so insensitive. Eventually, with what I felt was unusual patience, I turned and said, “Sir, your children are disturbing people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”

The man lifted his gaze as if he saw the situation for the first time. “Oh, you’re right,” he said softly, “I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”

Suddenly, I saw things differently. And because I saw differently, I felt differently. I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior. My heart filled with compassion. “Your wife just died? Oh, I’m so sorry. Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?” Everything changed in an instant.

~Kevin Ackerman, Flickr


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