When I lived in South Africa I was volunteering at a very large non-profit organization. It was important to me to fit in by doing whatever was required. Upon arrival I was immediately keenly aware of all the excellent work they did in the community in education, plus vocationally, medically, agriculturally and more. For a couple of weeks I took it all in figuring out in what areas I could offer my skills. It was about this same time that a woman from England made a proposal. She would sell all the handmade bags we could make and send to her in Britain. By providing a sample bag, she gave an example of the approximate size and knitting or crocheting quality she was looking for.
I had already begun working with a group of local ladies. This project seemed to be something we could definitely tackle together…and besides, I was the only staff member who knew how to knit or crochet. It appeared to be a no brainer. I fully expected this task would be mine and one day at lunch I encouraged my colleagues to take full advantage of my time with them. There was a lot I could do. I was really looking forward to having my own first assignment.
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” The weeks began to slip by with still no confirmation on the proposed project. In fact, it was rarely mentioned. And, I wasn’t given any tasks at all. The days were tough trying to always find a place where I could help out while everyone around me seemed very busy, each day filled with schemes and plans to serve the community, yet I had no specific assignment at all to call my own. I continued on with the group of ladies but we never had a focused task to work on. Everything I suggested seemed to go by the wayside or was even taken out of my hands. I became very upset even wondering why I was there in the first place. I felt like a misfit, left out. When you don’t speak the language or share the same culture it’s so very hard to be part of a team.
Finally, one day at a staff meeting, it was announced that the bag project would go to the already swamped speech therapist. I immediately stood up and abruptly left the meeting. I had to or I would have burst into tears before them all. I was so very frustrated. My flat was on the grounds so I just went home to lament my fate. Why was I even here? Why would they not let me help with anything?
Two of my colleagues came to my door shortly after I left the meeting. Through my tears, my simmering pot of disappointment now boiling over, I asked them what I was doing here, why they wouldn’t let me help with anything. I must have made a terrible mistake in coming to Africa. They looked at each other incredulously!
“You have no tasks because weeks ago you were complaining that we were taking advantage of you,” they stated as a matter of fact.
“What, when had I ever said that?” They reminded me of the lunch meeting when I had said I hoped they would take full advantage of me being there.
Wow, I was gob-smacked! What a huge gaping hole between their perspective and mine. What a misunderstanding! I tried to explain to them the meaning of what I had said but I could tell they didn’t really get it. They had never heard that before and they honestly felt I had been complaining about all there was to do. We truly got off on the wrong foot and while I now knew why I had no assignments of my own, in many ways the damage had been done and I spent the remainder of time there at the NGO trying to right this perception.
The proper point of view is critical in life. It can literally affect everything on a daily basis.
It was a huge mistake not going to God immediately with how I felt.
From this experience on, I have tried to select my words more carefully so that I will never again experience the pain of being misunderstood. It’s like being falsely accused. I was very unsettled about that whole situation in South Africa but I realized I was at fault for never having said a word about it letting it fester and grow in my heart and mind. Christians are not supposed to do that. Very simply, I hadn’t trusted God. We are to address issues and talk them through. Matthew 5:23-24 My perspective, or point of view, was all askew.
As a golden-ager, I am sometimes concerned that my approach and evaluation of a situation is misunderstood simply because I now view it through a more mature lens. You know what I mean. What once may have been very important just isn’t any more. Seniors understand seniors best, right? Opinions and preferences I had when younger are no longer relevant it often seems.
Many factors impact our personal perspective not the least of which is our orientation. Often our cultural roots are predominant as in this case. But I would have saved myself so much grief shifting away from a ME focus if only I had acknowledged to God my state of mind. I should have taken a personal inventory instead of allowing the enemy to dominate my point of view. Maintaining the right perspective allows for better understanding and ultimately paves the way to fruitful resolutions. Conversely, the wrong perspective festers shutting the door to negotiation. On a personal level the wrong point of view destroys and eats away at your soul. Therefore, it is of vital importance to see the glass half full, not half empty.
Do you need to change your perspective? Do you need an attitude adjustment? I guarantee your life will take on a whole new hue when you do. A positive outlook brings contentment and joy because there is confidence in knowing Who holds your future. With the proper perspective, you learn to live apart from your circumstances by trusting God in all things. When we feel ourselves slipping into negativity it’s time to examine our personal perspective.
The Bible has a lot to say about having the proper perspective in life. Christians are called to be different. After all, this ol’ world isn’t my forever home. My focus is to be on things above. We must live with a heavenly perspective.
“Be not conformed to this world…” Romans 12:2
Every day we must don our armor, Ephesians 6:11, and soldier on!
In James 1:12 we are encouraged to remain steadfast.
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
My citizenship is in heaven. It just doesn’t get any better than this!