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A Little Happier: Why a Taxi-Driver and I Saw Two Different Streets


One thing that’s very true about the world, and yet very hard to keep in mind, is that we all see things from different perspectives. And the way we frame things makes a big difference in how we respond.

I was reminded of this truth years ago. I’d traveled out of town to do a speaking gig, and I was taking a taxi back home from the airport.

As the taxi headed down one of the avenues in my New York City neighborhood, we passed the street where my daughter’s school is located.

This was years ago, when she was in fourth grade. At her school, the fourth graders, like several of the grades, had something called “Playstreet,” when the school blocked off both ends of the street, so that the kids could play in the street as well as on the sidewalk. They didn’t have a playground, they had playstreet.

As we passed, I could see that the street was blocked off and that kids were running around. I pressed my face to my window to see if I could spot Eleanor or any of her friends.

The taxi driver saw my interest, and he said in a conversational tone, “Now, isn’t that just the saddest thing you ever saw? Those kids playing right in the middle of the street?”

I turned back with surprise. To me, the sight of those children was cozy and delightful. I almost laughed in astonishment of realizing how different the scene looked to someone else.

As writer Zora Neale Hurston observed in her memoir Dust Tracks on a Road, “Every man’s spice-box seasons his own food.” The same scene looks very different, depending on who is looking.

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