As I stood at the bus stop this morning waiting to head into work, the light breeze and balmy air were a contrast to the harsh noise of the traffic as it consistently bombarded my senses, the loud ebb and flow of noise, the hot draft of engine heat, the smell of exhaust. I knew there were several people waiting at the stop with me because of the multiple layers of perfume, sweat, and other cosmetics I could smell. Everyone was quiet at the bus shelter as we waited, and I wondered briefly if I again would be approached by any evangelistic groups asking if they could pray for my vision to be healed, this particular stop is a popular one and I usually get a chance to talk with them twice a week or so. I hoped they would, I enjoy the conversations and challenging their perceptions about God’s plan for my life. The bus rolled to a stop, and the distinct hiss of the air breaks releasing let me know it was time to find the front door of the bus. This is more challenging than most might think, as the rumble of the idling diesel engine that seems to be the trademark of every city bus ever known makes any echo location nearly impossible. I stuck out my left hand while using my cane with the right and walked along the bus, drawing my hand along the dirty exterior until I found the back edge of the door that was slid back to allow entrance. I knew the people waiting at the stop with me were observing my actions, and I wondered briefly for the millionth time what they may be thinking. Stepping up onto the bus, the noise again prevented me from knowing easily whether or not another patron entered the bus before me and is attempting to produce fare…there was, and they were, but with a light touch from my cane and a murmured apology, I set my stance and waited my turn. As the person in front of me moved on, the driver got my attention by saying,
“Good morning, I won’t forget about you this time, you need the stop before 411 right?” This particular driver had dropped me off at the wrong stop a few days earlier. I gave a little smile to assure her that all was well and said,
“Yes, thank you, and I appreciate it.” After searching the top of the fare box for a moment to find the slot for my bus pass, I slid it in and waited for the machine to spit the pass back out. I keep the thin card in the same place in my wallet, always facing the same direction, so that I can easily insert it the correct way without taking much extra time. Putting my pass away again, I turned and made my way back toward the seats. I always check to the left side first, as it is more likely the driver will see me there, and not forget to drop me off at the correct spot. As I approached the first seat, looking for the familiar feel and sound of my fiberglass cane connecting with the metal edge of the bus seat, I instead found a soft muffled contact, irregularly spaced and uneven…a pair of knees. A person was sitting in the first seat, and maybe was asleep, wearing headphones, doesn’t know what to say to the scary blind guy accosting them…not really sure. Ultimately, they didn’t say a word as I searched around for another seat. Muttering an apology, I turned to the other side of the bus searching for an empty seat. Finding another set of legs I assumed were attached to a person, a slight spike of irritation cut through me as I turn further into the bus and finally found the second and third seat open with a familiar sharp clack of sound from my cane. Sitting down and swinging my back pack to my lap, I thought about how frustrating it is when people take the front seats and somewhere along the way lose there tongues in the process. I mean, how difficult is it to say, “seats taken” or “there’s a seat to my left.” How rude can you be honestly? As if this transition is not tough enough already, and this is the first of four such transfers for the day, and only a sampling of the work and energy it takes to function somewhat smoothly for the rest of my regular daily activities.
Perception…this is again the word that comes into my mind. I sit and think about how much that word has floated to the surface this morning. It’s a word that seems powerful to me, but maybe misunderstood. I wonder about how perception shapes my day, how the people around me have a perception of me and my abilities, or lack there of, based off my blindness. I have perceptions of them based off their behaviors as well, their lack of communication, the perfumes and colones they might, or might not, wear. But how much power does that really have? It would seem like a lot, truthfully, because perception affects behavior, and behavior affects reality.
Behavior affects reality…this is another thought that strikes me. How often do I let my perception effect my behavior, and thus my reality? Like I had just done? My perception of the people in the front seats was that they were obviously selfish and inattentive to those around them, and so my and their reality became a silent bus ride at best, as opposed to the edifying conversation that it may have been had my perception been different. Maybe these people were reading a book, and were caught up in some homework, or maybe they had just woken up from a long night of taking care of a sick family member. It could be a hundred other possibilities outside of those. So what does that mean? Ultimately, it means that my perception of the situation can, and probably is not completely correct. There is a good chance that I really am not seeing the situation in its truest form, that there are facts that I am missing. Just like the people watching me find the door to the bus, they don’t understand all the intricacies of what I am doing, and likely perceive that I am lost, or confused, or flat out incapable. So if my perception can, and likely is not completely accurate, it follows that I should be careful to not allow my behavior to fully run off my perceptions. Though I perceived these people as being rude and self-centered, I may have chosen to alter my behavior, and change the reality of the situation. Perception, ultimately doesn’t have any real control of reality, my behaviors do.
Now, this isn’t to say that peoples perceptions don’t shape reality, because they do, as I said, perception affects behavior, and behavior affects reality. If I go for a job interview, and the job I am applying for is one I am well qualified for, and I interview well, but the employer perceives that even with my qualifications and great interviewing skills, as a person who is blind, I wouldn’t fit the job well, then his or her perceptions have affected their behavior i.e. they didn’t hire me, which has affected my reality. Even with this understanding, I decided then and there that behavior trumps any and all perception eventually. Interview enough times, connect and impress the employer enough, and I have the ability to change my reality through my behavior. Perception is the possible blueprint you currently have, behavior in the end is the brick with which you are building, and the house is the reality. If you have faulty blueprints, you can place those bricks in the wrong place, and the house will be drafty, cold, and unstable. Alter the blueprint based off of someone else’s design, or flat out refuse to follow the blueprints you have, favoring the building techniques that you’ve been told are superior, and you can end up with a cozy solid home.
I want to finish with this, one of my favorite stories, the Tortoise and the Hare. This is such a great story, solid principles of life, the steady winning the race. Think though about it in this context. It wasn’t the hare’s arrogance or skill that lost him the race, but it was his perception. He perceived that he was superior in speed, and the race was all but won before it even started, and he allowed this perception to effect his behavior. Any wise runner, or wise person for that matter, would tell you that taking a nap during a race…not exactly the model for success. His perception created foolish behavior, that affected his reality. Meanwhile, my good friend the tortoise, didn’t allow his perception of the situation to affect his behavior. Knowing he was woefully outmatched, he still did what he always does, he kept moving, and in the end was victorious. I challenge you today to look at your perceptions of your situation, some reality that you have wanted to change. How is your perception of your reality affecting your behavior? What behavior will change your reality? Write down one reality that you want to alter, then write down a behavior that you can change to affect that reality…then start building that cozy strong house. Do you avoid going to the gym because you believe you will look foolish, that you don’t know what you are doing and that makes you self conscious? Do you hold off on telling that co-worker that you are offended by their jokes because you are worried about how they or others may think you are prudish or self-righteous? A common reality that we all seek is that of success in the things that we value. If you are a person that values health, fitness, honor, honesty, integrity, an/or any other, don’t allow your own, or other people’s perceptions to prevent your desired reality. A true champion doesn’t allow disruption of the behaviors that they know will shape and chisel out the dream that they have dreamed up…be that true Champion.