Seeing the Potential in One Another

We are, in a certain way, defined as much by our potential as by its expression. There is a great difference between an acorn and a little bit of wood carved into an acorn shape, a difference not always readily apparent to the naked eye. The difference is there even if an acorn never has the opportunity to plant itself and become an oak. Remembering its potential changes the way in which we think of an acorn and react to it. How we value it. If an acorn were conscious, knowing its potential would change the way it might think and feel about itself.

The Hindus use the greeting “Namaste” instead of our more noncommittal “Hello.” The connotation of this is roughly, whatever your outer appearance, I see and greet the soul in you. There is a wisdom in such ways of relating. Sometimes we can best help other people by remembering that what we believe about them may be reflected back to them in our presence and may affect them in ways we do not fully understand. Perhaps a sense of possibility is communicated by our tone of voice, facial expression, or certain choice of words . . .

Holding and conveying a sense of possibility does not mean making demands or having expectations. It may mean having no expectations, but simply being open to whatever promise the situation may hold and remembering the inability of anyone to know the future. Thoreau said that we must awaken and stay awake not by mechanical means, but by a constant expectation of the dawn. There’s no need to demand the dawn, the dawn is simply a matter of time. And patience. And the dawn may look quite different from the story we tell ourselves about it. My experience has shown me the wisdom of remaining open to the possibility of growth in any and all circumstances, without ever knowing what shape that growth may take.

Rachel Naomi Remen in Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal


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