I keep thinking of my table… clean, wooden, comfortable for all. Twelve seats or so gathered round — a great place for conversation. Oh, what a joy deep, diverse conversation can be! We learn from and sharpen one another.
Or at least we have the potential to…
There’s a centerpiece in the middle of my table today. It’s fairly simple, nothing too fancy, as flower arrangements have never been my forte. Here we host an unadorned vase, with only a couple long stemmed flowers included. One maybe shorter than the other — each with varied blooms. There’s a little water, too.
And so the twelve of us sit, all at the same table, eyes attentive to the center.
Join me, will you?
Come to the table.
I love a full table!
We then begin to discuss and describe the centerpiece…
“It looks so real… so authentic…”
“I love it!”
“Sorry, guys, but I don’t find it very pretty. I can’t see much of a bloom.”
“Look at that shorter flower. Something must be wrong with it.”
“What shorter flower?”
“Can you not see it? It’s right there!”
“What color is it?”
“Pink? I think it’s white.”
“White? Pink? Really? I only see a dark spot in the middle.”
“Friends, there is no dark spot.”
“Look at the stem. Looks pretty broken.”
“It’s not broken. It simply leans a little left.”
“Left? It clearly leans right.”
“Right? It’s not leaning at all.”
“What about the water? Is there something floating inside?”
“There’s nothing floating. Just a stem.”
“One stem? I see two stems.”
“The vase actually seems a little blurry.”
“Wait. Is that a vase?”
And so the conversation continues…
Each of us is looking at the exact same thing. We are each focused on the same, singular object — an object with all sorts of facets and features, the prominence of which, depends on the seat.
What we see depends on where we sit. Our seat is real. Our experience is real. Our perspective is completely authentic… the perspective, however, changes when we sit in another seat.
Here’s the thing… sometimes precisely because we know our experience is real — I can see the flower, dang it!! It’s right here in front of me! — we get so stuck in our own seat that we forget the eleven other seats at the table. We convince ourselves that only we (and maybe those, too, in adjacent seats — maybe) see the object or issue rightly. And just like that, we forget that each of those eleven other seats also has a valid perspective.
Hence, when we advocate for a “come-to-the-table” mentality, there is a recognition that all are welcome. Each brings a perspective we can learn from… especially when different than our own.
We remember humbly, too, that each seat has a valid view.