Not alone on the planet

I can remember the day I first noticed other people.

I was about four years old, and very happy with myself. I had started to enjoy the idea of having thoughts and ideas zooming around my head, and liked nothing better than to sit and daydream. I would follow my stream of consciousness around in my brain and see where it led me. It was a wonderfully exciting feeling to almost watch words and ideas intertwine, and I believed myself to be very special, unique and talented for being able to do this.

On one particular day, our family was going somewhere and decided to take one of the crowded mini-buses that used to travel the streets of Karachi. As we boarded the bus, with me in stream-of-consciousness mode, I looked around at the packed seats and marvelled at the number of people there were in the world.

Suddenly it hit me. They all had brains as well. That must mean they all had thoughts and ideas zinging around their heads as well. They must have thought they were just as special as me. And that must mean that I was not as unique as I thought I was.

The idea that everyone else in the world was just like me felt like shutters falling from my eyes. I blinked and was overwhelmed by the smallness of myself in comparison to everyone else on the planet.

"Hang on," said my four-year old self. "Maybe I can just pretend I didn't think that, and go back to me being the most special/talented/interesting person - the only one who really matters." I tried to ignore everyone else for a few minutes and went back inside my head, but the truth had already burned its path. I reluctantly submitted to the idea that other people were alive and important and special.

Since then, I've had both the gift and the challenge of being able to see things from other points of view than just my own. (Not always, I hasten to add... in case there's anyone out there who's jumping up and down in protest!)

It's a good thing to be able to step in the shoes of others. But it can also mean I am often paralysed in making decisions or having my own opinion. (Not always, I hasten to add again, in case there are people out there thinking, "She's the most opinionated person I know...")

It all makes me secretly wonder sometimes like that kid in the film*: if we are all special, does that mean no-one is special? Is the answer perhaps this: we are all special because God made us, and because God loves us. Simplistic but true...?

*can't remember which: maybe the Sixth Sense? I'd be hopeless on a trivia quiz....

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