Do you have a plan for “What If ….. an intruder breaks into your house in the middle of the night”? My scaredy-cat plan for that scenario is along the lines of locking myself into my room and calling the police. No plan ever involves me venturing out into the house to confront this threat. Why Hollywood shows women creeping around corners looking for danger is completely beyond my comprehension.
That is, until one night, while living alone in a city apartment, and peacefully sleeping in my room, the light in my spare room spontaneously switched on. I’m a light sleeper, so the sudden flood of light in the hallway jolted me out of my slumber. Did I follow the script I had rehearsed many times in my head? Did I predictably lock the bedroom door and call the police? NO! Some other persona took over my reactions and before I knew it I found myself bolting down the hallway into the spare room to see what had happened. Who would have thought I was capable of this?! What about my preconceived notions? What about the plan?
I often recall this crazy reaction when projecting myself into unknown and dramatically different territory. We try to imagine “what it would be like, if …” as we seek to support and comfort others in situations we have not yet personally experienced. We try to predict “what we would do, if …” as we try to anticipate and prepare for the future and how we would respond.
We just don’t know for sure. We don’t know until we’ve walked in their shoes, or made our own experience. We cannot be so confident and self-assured in our suggestions and sympathies. We can empathize. We can offer love. We can be there. We can walk by their side. We just cannot offer the “I know’s”, because we do not know.
[Note: What made the light in the spare room turn on? A spring malfunction in the bedside lamp switch. Lucky for me there was no intruder!]