If we are paying attention, wisdom can enter our life from almost anywhere. Life lessons and wisdom are abundantly available for those who are open to learning. This is the story of one such lesson that could have been easily overlooked.
It seems that every small town has a least one local gas station, and that’s the setting for this story. We have one on the edge of town that’s run by an easy going guy named Jimmy. Now for those of you who are accustom to self service gas stations, allow me to adjust your perspective slightly.
Once upon a time
You see, years ago we referred to them as service stations rather than gas stations. The reason? Well, because they offered services that are extremely rare these days. They would wash your windshield, check the air pressure in your tires, and even open the hood and look around.
In Oregon, there are no self service gas stations. In fact, it’s against the law to pump your own gas. So as unlikely as it may seem, the spirit of the old service station still exists. This is especially true in smaller towns.
Anyway, Jimmy meets a lot of people in the course of his job, including newcomers who are just moving here. There is one particular question that he is asked fairly often. I feel that his answer reflects a real depth of wisdom and insight into human nature. That’s what I want to share it with you.
When people move here they are usually curious about about quite a few things. One of the most common questions they ask is: “What are the people like around here?”
Now that’s a perfectly normal question, but it’s also open to interpretation because it calls for an opinion. Well, Jimmy has too much wisdom to just offer an opinion, so he uses their question to learn something about those curious newcomers. His response also offers an opportunity for a little self examination to those who are really listening.
The subtle wisdom of his insightful response
When someone says, “we just moved here and we were wondering, what are the people like around here?” Here’s how he responds. Rather than giving his opinion, Jimmy answers them with another question, one that can be quite revealing. He asks, “What are the people like in the town where you just moved from?”
Now, instead of giving them his opinion, he gets to listen to theirs. Interestingly, no matter how they answer his question, his response is always the same. In fact, his response is the key to the wisdom locked up in this simple life lesson. Let’s consider two possible scenarios.
What were your old neighbors like?
If they tell him something like: “The people where we came from were hard to get along with. We lived there for six years and didn’t even know our neighbors. It was the most unfriendly place we have ever lived.” Then Jimmy says, “That’s what the people around here are like also.”
On the other hand, if they say something like: “The people where we just moved from are wonderful. We were friends with all of our neighbors. It was the nicest group of people we have ever lived around.” Then Jimmy says, “That’s what the people are like around here also.”
Where’s the wisdom in that?
As it turns out, Jimmy has a very practical sense of wisdom about human nature that many people fail to recognize. He understands that life is about perspective and attitude. We are the ones who decide what to make out of our circumstances. In other words, we bring it with us wherever we go.
If we have a good attitude about the people around us, that’s what we project. If we have a bad attitude, then that’s what we project. Whatever we project will be reflected back on us by our environment. To a huge degree, we live in a world of our own making.
What kind of world do you live in?
Now it’s time for each of us to ask ourselves, “What are the people like where I live?” You see, changing neighborhoods, jobs, friends, or even marriage mates won’t necessarily make life better.
If we want to improve the quality of our lives and our relationships, then we need to start a little closer to home. We need to think about what kind of attitude we are projecting into the world we live in. Wisdom dictates that we can’t move away from our own attitude. If we want to live in a better world, we need to start with a better attitude.
How do you feel about the role of attitude?
Have some wisdom of your own to add?
The lines are open!
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