The problem with should


We had just arrived in San Francisco and were driving toward the Golden Gate Bridge, heading along the coast and then to the beach for a stroll on that gorgeous, warm January day. It came up that I had never seen the city of San Francisco.

One of my friends said, “Oh! We have to detour and take you in to see the city!”

It was a lovely gesture, to detour on my behalf. “That’s ok,” I replied, “I’m happy to skip the city and go on to Stinson Beach for a walk.”

My other friend said, “You can’t be this close to the city and not see it. It’s such a beautiful city.”

I said, “That’s really nice of you, but I’m more drawn to things outside of cities. I’m fine seeing San Francisco some other time.”

There was a third attempt to help me see the light. I was quiet in the back seat, mulling.

My two dear friends are fellow mediators and the realization was upon them immediately – both loving and smart, those two. There was a chuckle from the front seat. J turned and grinned at me. “We really want for you to want to see San Francisco, don’t we? We want it for you more than you want it, don’t we?”

We all laughed and drove on to Stinson Beach, where we took off our shoes and spent two hours strolling the nearly empty beach in the warm afternoon sun (so different from the frigid New England we’d just left), sharing stories, picking up and examining interesting beach stones, greeting dogs that trotted by, relaxing and enjoying the ocean sounds and surf.

There’s a difference between what we want for someone and what they should want, yet we so frequently translate the former into the latter as though they are the same. When we want something for them, something from them, we would do better to acknowledge it as a statement of our own desires. Let’s use should a great deal less than we do, for who are we to know what they should want or should do? Only they can truly know.