One in particular stuck out for me.
It was about a boy who wanted to feed chocolate to a fish. He loved this fish and wanted to give it a treat. What better treat than chocolate, no? But the fish ignored the chocolate, finding no appeal in it. At first the boy was offended. His heartfelt gift - the best he had to offer - had been rejected. Then his mother helped him come to the conclusion that - while chocolate is a fine treat for a little boy it provides no such joy for a fish. The fish needed to be treated with something that would give it pleasure - something which would probably not be viewed as a treat at all by a little boy. Or a human, for that matter. The moral of the story was that we might need to tweak the Golden Rule sometimes.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Do unto others what they need.
I love this sentiment. What I need to get through something might not be what you need. So, when reaching out, consider the needs of the recipient - not necessarily what your needs would be in the same situation.
Sometimes we get it wrong, though.
My youngest daughter is a cuddler. She likes to sit close and snuggle in. She likes hugs and kisses and gives and receives both with abandon. My eldest? Not so much. We always say she allows herself to be hugged. And even that, only sometimes. She stiffens beneath my embrace and usually tries to escape it. Clearly she is not a fan of physical affection (at least not from the adults who love her - among her peers it's a whole different ball game). So I gave her less, not wanting to impose upon her. I tried to express my love for her in other ways. Tried to give her what I thought she needed, not what I needed myself.
Then, one heartbreaking day, she said to me, "Why do you love Olivia more than you love me?"
"Why in the world would you say such a thing?"
"You hug and kiss her more. You almost never hug and kiss me."
Well, the child had a point. I surely did hug and kiss her less. I thought I was being respectful of her wishes, since she always expressed such disdain when hugs and kisses were imposed upon her. Turns out I was hurting her feelings and sending a very different message from the one I had intended. So now I hug and kiss her. A lot. She rarely responds to it - unless you count eye-rolling as a response - but I have learned that it is indeed what she needs.
And one more example of letting my own perspective get in the way of what's real:
I was teaching job skills to high school students with special needs. One of my students, a young man with Down's Syndrome, informed me one day that he loved one of the girls in our class and that he was going to marry her. His classroom teacher overheard him sharing this information with me and inserted herself into the conversation.
"We've talked about this before - what do you need to do before you can get married?"
As his job skills teacher, I was pretty confident that she meant he would need to get a job, and I nodded affirmatively. His answer threw me for a loop. He slightly bowed his head and mumbled, "I need to learn to tie my shoes."
So I guess we'll further tweak the old platitude: Do unto others what they need, but make sure you know what they need, first.