Give Yourself The Finger

Last week I attended a lecture given by an educational designer for a program in the city. This program uses Outward Bound and its curriculum to bridge gaps between the youth in the city and the city's police officers.  The underlying goal of the day-long program is helping each person understand that others might have a different perspective from oneself.

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To emphasis this point, the speaker had us do this exercise:

  • Take you right hand, make a fist and extend your pointer finger
  • Holding your hand in front of your chest, move your hand with your finger pointed upwards in a counter-clockwise circular motion
  • Continue circling your finger counter-clockwise as you raise your hand above your head.
  • Look up and see what direction your finger is moving now

Just goes to show you that one's perspective is not absolute.

Another goal of this program is a chance for people on "opposite sides"  to get to know each other on a level playing field.  The kids and the officers interact in a neutral place- a YMCA or public park. They are not identified by specific clothing or uniform.  Both parties have to disarm.  They spend the day doing team tasks, talking about stereotypes, sharing a meal together and begin viewing each other in different ways.

When we can put a name and face to someone on "the other side", we begin to see a different perspective. We begin to understand a little bit about what the other is going through.  The speaker gave an example from one of the conversation tables where both parties shared openly how they felt about the other. The kids were saying that an officer is intimidating because of his gun.  One officer responded that he feels intimated by the kids because, "we rarely see just one of you.  There are generally twelve of you traveling around. My gun would only stop one of you at a time." 

What about you?  How's your perspective?  Have you ever had it change?   What prompted that?    Are there people in your life that you view through a certain lens? Do you need to see life from their vantage point? Do you need a different perspective in your life?  Do you feel stuck in your outlook?  Do you need to move (literally or figuratively) to see things in a broader range? 

When I feel that I am stuck in viewing a situation, I remember "the finger"- the movement of my counter-clockwise hand which appears to be clockwise once I change my vantage point.