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The three year old was convinced, D.A.D. on the back of a shirt spelled “Shirt”.  Why was he so adamant about this?  He had watched “Wordworld”.  In “Wordworld”, for the unfamiliar, every animal is made up out of the letters it is named by.  So the pig is made up of the letters P-I-G.  Cat consists of the letters C-A-T made to look like a cat.  Logically translating the T.V. show to the real world, D.A.D. on a shirt spelled shirt.  It took a whole day to help the three year old understand the real world does not work like the T.V. world when it comes to words on clothes.

Television can distort our reality, no matter what age.  Bombarded with messages about how we “need” to look, we may buy clothes to look fashionable, style hair in the latest look, frantically try to lose weight and/or save to buy the latest car or a more expensive house.  Why?  Perhaps so we may fit in with a society preoccupied with living out the unrealistic vision presented in the media. Unrealistic expectations put a lot of stress on relationships and finances and govern how we listen to others. And yet, it is so easy to let these incredibly high expectations run our lives. 

So, I wonder if you have considered what you expect of yourself and others.  Are you more comfortable being around those who dress a certain way?  We may think, “It really doesn’t matter to me.” Later we may catch ourselves judging those who don’t live as media dictates, as less than worthy of our company.  Dehumanization begins with judging one person as less worthy than another.  Dr. Seuss well spoke, “A who is a who no matter how small.”

We can make our world a kinder, gentler place for one another by not placing unreasonable expectations on each other.  Each person has their own struggles, wounds, and burdens to bear.  By truly learning to listen to one another instead of expecting someone to live up to an idealized standard, someone’s journey is made a little easier.

 It is an interesting experience to try to listen to someone for five minutes straight without speaking. We have a natural instinct to want to jump in and share ‘our two cents’ so to speak.  By deliberately staying silent, maintaining gracious non judging eye contact and empathetic body language, the speaker truly has a chance to be heard. 

The three year old now knows D.A.D. spells Dad even if it is written on a shirt.  It took some listening, understanding, and a little work to change his perception.