I have long been intrigued by the lessons nature teaches us. When I am intentional and aware, over and over something around me in creation has something new to say or to remind me of a truth I need to hear once again.
A few weeks ago the sky in Snowmass was filled with smoke from distant fires elsewhere in Colorado. Our normal blue skies were occluded by the smoke for several days. If a visitor to the area had been here for just that 48 hour period, that visitor may very well have left with a mistaken assumption of what our skies generally look like.
Similarly, 49 years ago this month, my family moved to Los Angeles. In Southern California, fog and low clouds are the norm on many June days. When the fog and clouds clear, the area is often left with hazy yellowish skies with little distant visibility. The week we moved, sure enough, the mornings were gloomy with fog and the afternoons choking with smog.
But then it happened. One morning there was no fog. Instead winds began to blow and the air cleared. From our backyard, the San Gabriel mountains jumped out at me and I was astounded by their beauty and size. Had I only seen the normal June gloom, I never would have known such mountains even existed.
These two snippets are a great reminder of the importance of both perspective and sample size. As the saying goes, not only can you not judge a book by its cover, you also cannot judge a book by one page of content.
We are human beings. The vast majority of people are doing the best they can during this tough time. We all deserve some slack. That said, I have caught myself and seen others exercising snap judgments or opinions in response to seeing or hearing something.
It was just this week, when this happened, I was reminded of what nature has taught me over and over again. That is, there is often far more happening than we can see in the immediate moment and one moment in time is, more often than not, insufficient to reach informed accurate conclusions.
When you read stories in the four Gospels, there are numerous occasions when a person or group of people dismiss the importance of perspective and sample size. Said another way, in the Gospels and in our lives now, sometimes we forget that there is often a backstory, another truth, or something not obvious in a given moment that have a lot to say about what we are observing in a situation or in another person’s actions.
Just as particulates impede seeing a clear sky, when we forget the importance of perspective, sample size, and backstories, such things can act as particulates in our ability to see the whole story, understand context, or in fact empathize in what we are observing in the actions and words of another.
Jesus was a master at seeing the whole story of a person’s life. Because he did so, he was present in the lives of others precisely in the ways they needed the most. It is my prayer for all of us, that we will keep the image of particulates in mind when we are with or around another human being. When we do so, we too may be able to be just what they need at the moment as well.