In my twenties, my passion was working with young men in gangs. And, once, on a trip to Roxbury, Massachusetts to study their youth violence intervention programs, I glimpsed one of the most critical lessons in my life: Exposure Matters. It changes everything.
One night, after a day at one of the programs, I started to walk down the street to my rental car. The young men I’d spent the day with called out their good-byes. Almost impulsively, I turned around and called, “Hey, want to get Chinese with me?”
“What Chinese restaurant,” one of them asked. And I explained that I had seen one by Harvard, just a few miles away. They didn’t know it.
Two miles away, maybe, a Chinese restaurant they had never seen. Not a big deal, maybe. But also those two miles away, a world class university that these guys couldn’t picture themselves attending because they had never visited it. What you can’t see, you can’t imagine. What you can’t imagine, you can’t become. Exposure matters. Suddenly, those two words seared themselves into my brain. Those words have greatly informed my sensibilities, because what we see, experience, try, consider can change everything.
I was recalling this story this weekend while on a retreat with the Circle de Luz Board of Directors and, suddenly, several of us were struck with just that simple metaphor, that simple parable.
“Go Two Miles in the Other Direction. Turn right,” Jen emphasized. And I’ve been sitting on those words since. I choose exposure on purpose a fair amount. I try to be as game as possible when an opportunity knocks. I make the annual birthday list that has me reading and experiencing and going and hearing and doing. I say yes as often as possible when my friends ask about stand-up paddling or kayaking or seeing a movie. You do, too, probably.
But what about the experiences you stumble upon? How often do I go the long way to something to just see what I can, take in what’s there, change my focus. How often do I choose the unfamiliar just because? How often do I go two miles in the other direction so that I might come upon that quaint little Chinese restaurant and then look up from that and see what else the world has to offer? Not that often.
So, the night I got home from the retreat, BF and I had a little bit of time to grab dinner on our own.
“Where do you want to go?” He asked.
We’re usually thrilling when this rare opportunity presents itself. We go to Subway. But not that night. That night, I suggested the Chinese restaurant not even one mile from our house that we’ve never entered. It wasn’t quite two miles down the road, but it was something: a new experience and a reminder of the importance of going two miles in the opposite direction of what you are used to and seeing where it takes you.
When have you gone in the opposite direction lately? Where did it take you?