Meeting one where they are keeps one where they are; loving one where they are supports one’s expansion.
For over fourteen years I have heard the following statement used in education, “We meet students where they are.” With pride, schools have used this statement in describing why their school is a better choice for a student over another school. It implies that they take students from where they are and move them along to what they are capable of. Recently, I visited girls’ schools around the country and talked with students and administrators. After visiting one school in particular, I began to have a mixed feeling about this statement and the idea of meeting students where they are. I noticed something unique about this school. It looked like many other schools I have visited, but there was an essence about it that was special. Maybe it was the language administrators used when talking about a particular challenge they were facing with the student body. Maybe it was the two seniors that toured my colleague and me around with a noticeable sense of joy and expression of pride and gratitude in their school and their classmates.
Whatever it was it just was, you could feel it. Reflecting on that visit in particular and the statement I have heard so often used in education, I wanted to take time to capture the essence of the feeling that I experienced at that school. Was this school actually meeting students where they were or were they meeting them with a different energy? It was after this visit that I told my colleague just how much I loved that school and I decided that it was my favorite. My colleague replied and said that I was not the first person to visit that school and say that. He then asked me what in particular made it my favorite.
I wanted to capture what I felt and observed at that school. As I reflected on my visit, the only thing that I could come up with was a feeling that is difficult to describe. What kept coming up for me was the fact it was clear that the adults meet students with a loving energy. These girls are thriving because the teachers and administrators support the students’ expansion by loving them where they are. This loving energy I felt falls in line with what has puzzled me at times about the statement we should meet someone where they are. Maybe the statement promotes just the opposite of what we may have intended. Meeting someone where they are could infer a statement of superiority or a statement of judgment. If I am meeting someone where they are I immediately have the visual of coming down to their level. Doing so implies that they need my help. Who is that really about? Is it about me or the person I am trying to assist?
As I reflected on my experience, I thought about how loving someone where they are could apply to all our interactions and in all of our relationships. When we show up with a friend, a family member, a colleague, a partner, or a complete stranger from a place of love, it feels expansive for all involved. One of the greatest loving acts we can give to another individual is to listen and to allow the other person to be heard. How many times have you been involved in a conversation sharing what is going on in your own life when someone immediately launches into their experience, or starts giving advice on what you should do? When you can truly listen without judgment, you can allow the other person to feel loved.
Each one of us is on our own journey learning what we need to learn when we are supposed to learn it. Loving someone where they are shows respect for the individual and implies they don’t need fixing. Could you imagine what would be possible if instead of meeting people where they are, we just simply loved people where they are? There would be less drama, less projection, less blame, less complaining, fewer labels, less judgment, and less suffering and there would be more peace, more acceptance, more gratitude, more inclusion, more happiness, and more love. When we show up from a loving energy as compared to a judging, superior energy, we allow time and space for the individual to have respect and compassion no matter where they are.
Next time you think someone is not where they should be, not doing what they are supposed to be doing, or the next time you have a judging unloving thought, perhaps all they need is for you to listen and love them where they are. By keeping your heart open, you give all the gift of allowing one to expand in one’s own way and in one’s own time.
Lorri Palko is a strategic, creative, and analytical leader who embraces a servant based leadership philosophy. She has spent her career combining both her leadership and financial skills to assist manufacturing businesses and non-profits align their mission with resources, especially their human capital. Lorri believes that resources and power are unleashed and that organizations and individuals thrive when they are committed to their purpose, their intention is to serve, and they choose gratitude and love. Love Money Purpose was founded to create supportive bridges that connect mission and money through a process of delving within.