We Don’t Know What Anyone is Thinking

faceFrom “Imperfection”

I am falling in love
with my imperfections
The way I never get the sink really clean,
forget to check my oil,
lose my car in parking lots,
miss appointments I have written down,
am just a little late.

I am learning to love
the small bumps on my face
the big bump of my nose,
my hairless scalp,
chipped nail polish,
toes that overlap.
Learning to love
the open-ended mystery
of not knowing why

–Elizabeth Carlson

We don’t know what anyone is thinking unless they tell us.

I can guess, but I don’t really know. This was impressed upon me again the other day when I led a teambuilding session on trust in the workplace for 30 employees from a division of a state agency in New Mexico.

In the afternoon of the two-day program, I presented my “Poetry Table” experience as a way for each employee to deepen their relationships with their peers.

For the first part of the exercise, people walked in silence and read up to 100 poems I had placed on tables, scattered around the room. The employees took an index card with them and wrote down names of poems that spoke to them. For the time being, they left the poems on the tables.

After about 20 minutes, I told them to pick the poem that spoke to them the most.

Just by looking at people, I couldn’t have guessed which poems they would write down. In fact, I have ALWAYS been wrong if I guess even if I guess with my wife or close friends.

Continue Reading »




A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

–Czeslaw Milosz

Czeslaw Milosz was a Polish poet, prose writer and translator of Lithuanian origin who lived through Nazi-Germany’s occupation of Poland, before defecting to France in 1951 and then coming to the United States in 1960. From 1961 to 1998 he was a professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1980, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He died in 2004 in Krakow, Poland.

I love the gratitude expressed in this poem. We can go so caught up in negative thinking that we miss the beauty around us.

The poem raises many questions for me about what I see and pay attention to. It is very human to focus on what’s wrong, what we don’t have, and what we wished was different.

I work a lot with groups on changing their perceptions from a deficit-based view of each other and the world to a strength-based view. Continue Reading »