Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The “I Am Still Here” Message

“I am still here.” “We are all okay.” These are the messages of millions of people, some of whom today are checking in after three or four days without communications, electricity, or both. It is a relief to hear, after a disaster that has left some people dead, injured, or homeless, that our friends, relatives, and neighbors have been spared.

But the same uncertainty occurs, to a lesser degree, every day. You never know for sure when you hear from anyone that you will ever hear from them again. Sometimes you might be 99.999 percent sure that you will see someone again tomorrow, but you can never be any more certain than that. And so the message, “I am still here,” is part of every message and every update, even if it is never specifically stated except at times like this. Sometimes it is the most important part of a message. We could make life a little more gentle by focusing on that aspect of the messages we hear from people, especially those messages we might otherwise jump to disagree with.

Whatever someone is saying, they are also saying, “I am still here.” When you focus on the part of the message that says, “I am still here,” it becomes impossible to respond by saying, “I disagree.”