I just finished Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey's incredible book What Happened to You? and I have some thoughts. First, everyone should go out and read this beautiful and poignant conversation about trauma and how to heal from it and move toward what they call trauma wisdom. It's that good. And our society would be better if more people understood how prevalent trauma was and how to support those of us affected by it. My other thought, and the one this blog post is about, comes out of one adorable anecdote Dr. Bruce Perry tells in the book. It got me thinking about the choice to be open-minded, and why I wish more of us made that choice. 

The Angry Businessman and the Playful Little Girl

kelli-mcclintock-wBgAVAGjzFg-unsplashDr. Perry tells a story about how he was in an airport waiting for a flight, and there were delays. Some people took the annoyance in stride, while others...didn't. 

One businessman was especially irate. He huffed and puffed and complained to the flight crew, while a little girl bopped all over the waiting area, unfazed by the drama that is being a grown up. 

The little girl mixed and mingled with the people waiting for the flight, while Dr. Perry watched the scene unfold. Then, the inevitable happened. While Perry had written the businessman off as a Grade A Jerk, the little girl had no such preconceptions. She went right up to the angry man and tried to engage him in her games. At first, he tried to resist, but he eventually caved. Perry then paints an adorable picture of the once angry businessman giving the girl a horsey ride around the airport, both of them all smiles. 

The Goal to Be Open-Minded

When I read this story, I thought about what it means to be open-minded. The little girl didn't jump to conclusions about the businessman. While Perry assumed this guy was a jerk through and through, the little girl approached him with a totally open-mind. 

Now, obviously we don't want to go into every situation ignoring our instincts, but I do think us adults have something to learn from the open-minded joy of children. 

At the very least, we can ask ourselves if our preconceived notions and assumptions about others serve us or not. 

So the next time I catch myself writing someone off as a jerk or an idiot, I'm going to ask myself if that's serving me. Then, I'm going to go against my gut reaction when it makes sense to do so. 

Let's go back to our jerk in the airport example. I might ask myself if it's helpful to write this guy off as a jerk. The answer is no. It's not helpful to categorize him this broadly. Then, I would challenge myself to keep an open-mind about this man. 

Maybe he's just being a jerk for a few minutes. Maybe he's upset because his wife is dying, and the delayed flight might ruin his chances of saying good bye to her. I just don't know his life, so judging him harshly doesn't do any of us any favors. 

Sometimes I wish I had the capability to be open-minded like young children, but since that's not an option for this old dog, I can at least strive for openness by questioning my snap judgments and choosing a different path when it makes sense. 

Who's with me? Who wants to join me in striving to be open-minded? 

I think it's just what we've all been hungering for lately. Imagine how it would make more of us feel safe and supported, instead of judged and discounted. 

Just imagine.