This morning I was at one of my favourite West Australian beaches, City Beach. This beach has crystal clear water and white sand and is very popular with the locals.
After my swim I parked myself up on the grass and spent the next hour watching the world go by. It was blissful! I was meant to be reviewing some notes that I had brought with me but as often happens I got sucked in to the study of humanity. I just can’t seem to help it!
People-watching has to be one of the greatest ways to appreciate human beings in all their shapes, sizes and colours. The greatest thing about it is that the subjects don’t know they are being studied and therefore behave in a natural and unfiltered way.
It was a long weekend here and there was definitely a holiday feeling in the air – families with little children, teenagers with arms slung around each others’ necks, and single people absorbed in their phones as their feet hit the sand.
The thing that really struck me today as I sat there and watched the comings and goings, was the appreciation that everyone has their story – their own unique (and most probably colourful) story.
Even though there were hundreds upon hundreds of us sharing the same stretch of beach, we all arrived at the beach with our own past experience, our own filters of the world, our own belief systems and value sets, and our very own story about life.
So often we forget that every person is doing the best they can with what they have.
There was a father who was extremely frustrated with his two small children. The kids clearly didn’t want to leave the beach and were putting up a very strong (yet unsuccessful) fight. Dad was not open to negotiation and the air around them was tense. The kids trailed behind him with tears and resistance, yet ultimately they knew they had to comply. They huffed and puffed and occasionally sat on the ground in complete defiance. This prompted their father to get even more stern with them until finally they felt compelled to get up and keep trudging on towards the car.
It made me curious about what they needed to get home to. Maybe there was a mountain of work that the dad had to do before tomorrow. Maybe it was time for the kids to go back to their mum’s for the week if the family was no longer together. Who knows?
What I do know is that the dad has his story, and so do the kids. My only job is to respect and appreciate that.
It would have been so easy for me to judge them because of the all the tension, but instead I made myself stay curious. I mean: I have no idea what their story is, yet I noticed that my mind wanted to go straight to judgment. Staying curious took some energy.
Left in the wake of this energetic storm, I noticed an older gentleman walking up the path with a boy I assumed to be his grandson. They were chatting happily and the older man kept touching the boy’s shoulders in such a loving and thoughtful way. They shared a joke, or something funny and as they came closer to me, I heard them cackling with laughter and slapping each other on the back. They seemed so genuinely taken with each other that the rest of the world paled into insignificance.
It was so beautiful to watch, and again, I started to hypothesise about their story. Maybe they hadn’t seen in other in a long time and were beyond excited to be together again? Maybe this is a weekly ritual? Maybe it is totally unimportant for me to know.
My only job is to appreciate them and respect that they – like you and me – have their story and are doing the best they can.