In the Same Boat

“Paint what you see,” we were instructed. Then our six kayaks, each carrying two people, were pushed into the water. 

A set of 24 watercolors was next to each of us. A waterproof bag held paper and paintbrushes of different shapes and sizes.

Each time the oar sliced through the water, we moved farther and farther from the shore. I could see the sun setting gently into the line of the horizon. The few clouds contrasted starkly with the bright blue sky. 

When we reached calm waters, we tied our boats together, put our paddles away and began to paint. I started with the dunes I saw in the distance. I painted three children, who I saw building sandcastles near the water’s edge. I painted the trees, covered in purple flowers. My painting was lively and colorful.

After we had finished our paintings, we put them in large plastic bags, untied our kayaks and began paddling back to shore.

Back on dry land, we began showing each other our paintings. I looked at my friend’s – she had been in the same boat as me. She had painted a bridge surrounded by water. Her painting looked still and peaceful. 

We had been in the same kayak. We were only a few feet apart, floating gently on the same water. Yet, she and I had looked in different directions. Our paintings were completely different, each reflecting the view from our kayak. Grasping someone’s perspective is hard. Even when you’re literally in the same boat.

Author: Alyssa Forcehimes, PhD

An expert in behavior change, substance use disorders and empathic communication, Dr. Alyssa Forcehimes serves as President of The Change Companies® and Train for Change Inc.® She lives in Arizona with her husband and two daughters.