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By Robert Docter –

It was close to the end of the first day of first grade. The teacher, Miss Othmar, stood proudly in front of the room and congratulated the class on a wonderful day. Linus, who had loved Miss Othmar all during kindergarten, looked at her with deep affection as her melodious voice filled the entire room.

“Now children–I want you to come to school tomorrow and be ready to share with everyone just exactly what you did this summer.”

Linus, enraptured and awestruck, said out loud for everyone to hear: “Gosh, Miss Othmar, how do you keep coming up with these great ideas?”

Great ideas–we need a few.

Linus just gave me one. What is absolutely boring, dull, tedious and uninteresting to one person can be dramatically innovative and fresh to another. A common human tendency is to believe that everyone sees the world in exactly the same way you do.

Not true. Each of us is totally unique–a phenomenal entity — different from everyone else. Each of us brings our own personal set of meanings to any experience. What we select to perceive is unique to those experiences and to our needs in any particular moment.

For instance, supposing someone in your corps wants to start a worship band and lead the congregation in contemporary worship choruses. Let’s say this someone has enjoyed singing these choruses and been spiritually moved by them. Let’s also say that someone else in the corps is deeply committed to Army traditions and believes that any action contrary to these traditions is like using the flag to start a bonfire of songbooks. For one person, the contemporary choruses are a “great idea” that satisfy personal needs. For the other, the “great idea” represents a refusal to recognize personal needs and is a very bad idea.

Here’s another great idea that fits right in. Conflict is managed through negotiation. Negotiation requires open trust between the parties. It requires straight communication with each party seeking to understand the needs, point of view, and percepts of the other.

In the example above, maybe the contemporary chorus person needs to realize that some of the traditional old hymns are very powerful and very new to some people. Maybe the traditionalist could realize that the great songs of yesteryear were very contemporary in the period in which they were written.

We are not alike. We can never be alike. To try to force everyone to see the world in the same way makes for a very boring existence.

Change happens. It can’t be avoided. It is value neutral by itself. Its valence, either positive or negative, depends on two matters. One concerns the manner in which we perceive the content of the change and the meaning we give it. The other concerns whether or not the product of the change is in harmony with basic universal values outlined by God. Sadly, too many people are value neutral on basic rules of life which, if violated, have serious consequences.

Here’s another great idea. We gain confidence in ourselves in direct relationship to our achievement. Struggling to achieve is threatening, scary, risky, intimidating and unsafe. The product of the struggle, however, is increased self esteem.

If I were Linus, I would share with Miss Othmar that, for me, this was a summer of achievement. I completed many long postponed projects. I participated in the reawakening of a cherished relationship with friends of a lifetime. I grew closer to Diane, the most important person in my life. And, my friend Bill and I completed the entire Camp Arnold ropes course.

Can you match that, Linus?

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