How are you defined? What kind of box would you fit into? Here are a few characteristics some might assign to me:
- White American
- Baby Boomer
- Pacific Northwest resident
- Sister, aunt, niece, cousin, friend
- Seattle Seahawks super fan
All items on that list are correct but if that’s all that people see about me, they’ve greatly reduced the trueness of who I am because my box also contains the following:
- spiritual but definitely not religious person
- free-thinker (is that redundant?)
- writer of things that matter to me
- advocate of the elderly and just about everyone else who crosses my path in life
Setting boundaries between who I am, and who you are, benefits no one.
Leonard Pitts, Jr. spoke at a TEDx event in February of this year. His 20 minute talk, The Boundaries We Choose, is readily available on YouTube so I strongly suggest you seek it out. He suggests, “Our labels shouldn’t define who we are and place us in a strict box.” He then spoke of labels one might put in his box: African American, Christian, Husband, Father, Fan of the LA Lakers. If you’ve read any of Mr. Pitts’ literary pieces in the Miami Herald or any of his books, you already know that he is more than the contents his box may imply. (To be sure, there is a very valid reason why he was named the 2004 Pulitzer Price Winner for Commentary.)
During his February TEDx talk, he provided a fabulous story that illustrates the downside of labels or identifying markers. I’ll let you discover that beautiful and clarifying story by watching his TEDx video, but for the purposes of this blog posting, I will provide you with one of his statements from that video.
Our bonds are more than connecting with certain markers that define people.
Examine, if you will, your way of describing something that happened to you during the course of your day.
When you relay a story about a person taking his or her time in line at the Starbucks store, holding everyone up for far too long a time, do you define the person this way?
This Asian woman in front of me acted like she owned the damn place. She was so selfish, taking her damn time ordering her fancy drink when all I wanted was a damn cup of brewed coffee.
Or did you simply say
This damn person in front of me took so much time ordering a fancy damn cup of coffee that I just about ran out of time to get my plain and simple cup of brewed coffee.