Thursday, October 22, 2009


So one day several months back I was sitting in the McDonald’s Play Place in Bountiful happily eating my grilled chicken sandwich while I watched Lucy disappear and reappear from the gigantic play "thing". Not far from me was an older gentleman who was there with his brood of grand kids. I knew because while I was there he had a continuous stream of requests. "Grandpa can I get an ice cream cone?" as he would promptly pull out a one dollar bill and say "Sure. Here ya go", every time.

It wasn't long before we struck up a conversation which lasted about an hour. As long as the kids were happy we kept talking. His name was Art Nielsen and he had been a teacher and coach for over 40 years. He's currently in his 80's and substitute teaches 4 days a week in south Davis County and loves every second of it. It was so weird to me, but I felt such a connection with this 80 year old man. It was a little serendipitous and I couldn't help but feel at the right place at the right time.

The thing I learned about Art during our conversation was that the relationships in his life were the most important thing to him. And it wasn't just the relationship with his spouse or his children, but every relationship was important to him. He was full of stories about kids he'd been able to help over the years and I was amazed as I listened. What impressed me the most was that Art gave his complete trust to these kids he'd never met. He would work with them one on one, he would talk with their parents, he would listen, he would even loan them money if they asked for it. Art gave them something few teachers and adults ever give kids. He gave them trust. He told me that he couldn't control whether they trusted him, but he chose to place all the trust he had in them.

I recently read a book called Anatomy of Peace. The objective of the book is to teach us how to resolve conflict in our lives. One of the first lessons taught is how to identify whether we are seeing others as people or as objects. To put this in very basic terms, when we see someone as a person we acknowledge that that person has needs and feelings just like us. Where as when we see someone as an object, they don't have individual feelings or needs, but are just part of a group, social class or "type" of people. By labeling someone as an object, it strips them of any personal or individual feelings or characteristics. This can be applied on so many levels, but the lesson is always the same. We treat others differently when we see them as people instead of objects. The book goes on to explain how these views of others effect our relationships and teaches how to over come these challenges we all face.

I have to say, it feels like it's been a long time since I felt sadness about the end of my marriage. I felt I had come to accept that what was done was done and I needed to focus on the future. Reading that book brought back a pain I hadn't felt in a long time. It's that pain that comes when we realize that we have seen those we love as objects and not as human beings. I found myself wishing I could go back and change the past, that I could have reacted differently in certain situations or just been a better person over all. The problem with pain is that, as uncomfortable as it may be, I believe it's a catalyst for changes we must make.

I got to see Art recently. He spoke in a fireside and as I listened to his stories again, I was so impressed by him. It's so hard to explain, but when I look at Art, I see someone who sees no objects, but only the people he is surrounded by. He would give you his time, his money and his love if you asked for it, and probably the same even if you didn't ask for it. The love from this man flows like a river. Unrestrained. I want to be like that. I don't know how, because I'm hopelessly flawed and selfish, but I want to be like Art. God willing. Someday.


Erin said...

Beautiful story. There was a guy like that at my work. He had a story for everything. He recently retired and lunch time isn't the same any more. I am really liking your prespective on things. Thanks for letting it all hang out there for us all to see.

Katie said...

This is very inspiring. What a great guy and a great example! The book sounds good also. I absolutely want and need to develop this kind of mindset toward people. I feel such compassion for people sometimes, but other times I slip into seeing them as objects. And just like you, I can think of ways this could have made a difference in my marriage. I don't know that it could have changed the outcome necessarily, but it certainly couldn't have hurt.

I think I may have given you this link before, but it's a similar article, and I think it gives some good ideas about how to see people the way you're describing:

Grand Pooba said...

Wow, that is just so crazy that out of chance you were able to strike up a conversation with an old man at mcdonalds.

Do you think that wisdom and trust like his can only come with experience? Do we all have to wait until we are 80 years old to gain that knowledge?

Melissa said...

Erin and Katie- Thanks for your comments. I'm all about "letting it all hang out" Erin. LOL! Thanks for reading. Katie, I will check out the website you recommended. I love finding new amazing sources. Thanks!

Melissa said...

You bring up some good questions. Here's my opinion. I think we're here to discover the kind of people God want's us to be and it's through our experiences and learning that we become that person. But ultimately we are what we choose to be. I don't believe we are victims of anything. Sure we have weakensses, but even with weakness we have a choice. I think what's important is that we learn to listen to ourselves. I believe there is something within all of us that wants to trust others and love them freely, but it's fear and every expereince that's happened to us since birth that's made us scared to give that love and trust freely. I think all we can do is continue to recognize our choices and always ask ourselves if we're acting in accordance to the person we want to be. I'm sure even Art has off days ;o) We are all works in progress choosing which part of ourselves to revise next. :O) Love ya kel.

If you're looking for an awesome read, you should read A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. It's an incredible book all about this. Enjoy.

Emily Horrocks said...

Thank you for sharing your experience of meeting this awesome man. It sounds like he's really inspired you! I also wish I was more like Art.

Remembering and feeling pain is always so difficult. I usually just pretend that everything is fine...but its hard when reality hits and you realize how hard of a time you are really having.

It sounds like you have a real grasp on your life though...I love reading all about it! You're so thoughtful!!

How is Miss Lucy doing? What is she up to?

The Taylor's said...

Melissa, what great thoughts. Thanks for sharing this.