“Assume a virtue, if you have it not.” William Shakespeare
My husband, Dave, and a very good friend, Jim, coined the word ‘otherly’ a number of years ago. Essentially, it’s about retrieving the lost art and practice of noticing. It’s about intentionally caring for others: asking someone how they’re doing and listening and it’s about noticing others around you and being kind. It’s challenging to practice being ‘otherly’. Somehow Shakespeare’s words capture this for me well. What if, this holiday season, and for the next few weeks I was to assume the virtue of being otherly. Of noticing others around me, of asking questions and listening to others without immediately jumping in and stating my own opinion, or immediately sharing my own story? This can be as practical as asking your spouse, or partner, or good friend: How was your day? And then intentionally choosing to listen, really listen, not jump in, nor do something else, but actually turn your body posture, eyes and heart to listen to their reply. It could be that if you’re in the midst of shopping, or at the mall, or at the grocery store in the next few days that instead of checking your list, or tapping your foot in frustration that you’re having to wait in a really long line, that you intentionally turn your attention outward (away from your cell phone) and notice those in line with you. What if you were to send them goodness and light in a sort of quiet prayer in your mind for them? What if you said ‘thank you’ to the cashier, or better yet, asked them how their day was going? Then, what if you stopped and gave them your attention and listened?
My mom was sharing with me the other day that my Dad use to remind her to: ‘always look for the good in people’. Her reply to him sometimes was, ‘That’s fine, but sometimes it’s really hard to find.’ It can be hard to look for the good in people. To notice and search for goodness, kindness, love and hope in others. I feel like this goes along with assuming a virtue and the practice of being otherly. As I venture out in the next days to be with family and friends (some of whom I have a difficult time being around) I’m going to attempt to practice being otherly. I’m going to assume the virtue of being kind, of listening, of caring for others and looking for the good in people. May you be encouraged and surprised as you practice this as well.