One of the tasks that I enjoy doing at work is putting together the agenda for our bi-monthly team meetings where we also choose a place to eat. I add clip art to spruce up the blank page and try to come up with an interesting “activity” for each meeting. It could be anything from naming our favorite childhood game to working through a short list of anagrams. It mustn’t take up too much time, just something to lighten things up, to inform, or entertain. Our past meeting, I was short for time and had collected a few bits of trivia to share from the back of past daily calendar pages. I also shared a quote from my new daily calendar: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.”

As we entered the Vietnamese restaurant and taken to our seats, I immediately noticed the plants nearby and commented on how nice they looked. There was a collection of several green leafed plants on top of an area that had been built as a short wall that was wide enough to accommodate a half-dozen plants. A skylight illuminated their foliage and their space. When we sat, my boss said that he thought the plants looked gloomy. I was a bit surprised and asked him why he thought so. He wasn’t able to say.

We placed our orders and I handed an agenda to the boss and T. The boss read the quote first and then said, “Is this another one of those depressing sayings?”

The quote was: “When you are wishing you were somewhere else, it’s almost as though you are one step removed from life rather than actually being in it, open to life exactly as it is.”

I told him that I thought the quote was somewhat uplifting and asked if he really thought it was depressing. He gave me a look to say yes. He then moved on to the trivia and said, oh, this will be better, not depressing. I told him the trivia should be much more positive for his tastes and shouldn’t make him feel depressed at all. He did like it, and I added a few more bits about it that I had read on Wikipedia.

We waited for our meals and drank tea and water. I noticed that the boss turned back to look at the plants. I asked him if he knew what it was that made him think they looked gloomy. He turned back again. He looked perplexed, like he was searching for something that had no answer. I suggested that maybe it was the beige wall they sat upon. He asked me what I thought; what was my view of the plants? I told him that when I looked at those plants standing straight and tall that they made me feel happy and that they looked happy and healthy. He agreed that they looked healthy, but that didn’t change the fact that they also appeared gloomy to him.

I completely accepted his view. I was just so fascinated that in this one instance, there were two totally different examples of how we saw something so differently. Of course if we were in an art gallery, I wouldn’t give it a second thought. So why did it surprise me now?

He joked in a half-serious way that maybe his eyesight was going. I said his eyes were probably just fine.

Our meals arrived and we continued talking about other things. As I sipped my tea, I too stole glances at the plants, contemplating the different views, but also admiring their beauty.