The world looks beautiful from 30,000 feet. You look out the window of an airplane and you can’t see the borders of states or countries or the cars on the road. You can only see trees and lakes, the dark scars of deep canyons and the orderly rectangles of farms and ranches. From up high, the world looks peaceful.
It changes when the plane lands, though, and you’re thrust back into daily life. Suddenly nothing is peaceful at all: there are papers to write and tests to take, parties to attend and tons of responsibilities. That’s another perspective.
We rely on perspective to make sense of the world and what we see happening in it. Perspective tells us who to trust, what to do next, what moral decisions to make and how the world works. It allows us to make moral, political and personal decisions, such as who to vote for for class president or who we should have as a friend.
It would be easier to get along with each other if we all had the same perspective, but we don’t.
A celebrity baby raised in the lap of luxury will think the world works in one way. A child whose family spends time in a homeless shelter will have a different perspective.
My neighbor and I love theater, books and reading, but we were born in different parts of the country, and although we have a lot in common, we see things differently.
To get far in life, all of us have to broaden our perspective while keeping our values and goals. We must understand where other people are coming from and what they want and need. The most successful CEOs, prom queens and class presidents understand that the world is a varied place and that everyone has a different way of seeing it.
They are able to understand others’ perspectives and work together, making others feel heard and counted. Otherwise, we’re blind and deaf, living in a world that confounds us at every turn.
It’s important to listen to what astronauts say when they come back from space: the world is fragile and beautiful, and they can’t understand the divisions that people make.
“The things that we share in our world are far more valuable than those which divide us,” said retired NASA astronaut Donald Williams.
Adults sometimes find themselves stuck in one perspective — they find it hard to change, but it’s possible. If you’re a teenager, you have a giant “under construction” sign slapped on your worldview, so take advantage of it.
Develop your perspective by serving at soup kitchens or talking with people who are knowledgeable about science, culture and religion. Make friends from across the racial spectrum.
This year, I want to see what the astronauts see: a united world where people will work together for the advancement of all. That’s very much in line with what God wants us to do as Catholics (after all, “catholic” means universal). It is also how Pope Francis wants us to serve and help the poor.
God’s love for everyone is universal. That’s his perspective. The more we understand that, the more amazing the world becomes, and the better we’re able to serve it, no matter how old we are.