Other People's Skin

Today’s my Other People’s Skin Day. I try to have an OPS Day on the 28th of each month, though sometimes I forget. It can be exhausting, but also uplifting. I started my occasional OPS Days about two years ago after reading one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s book about how we’re all connected. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk with a million books out there and they’re my go-to reading when I’m stressed or just need a bit of a spiritual boost. Anyway, it’s hard to read one of his books without feeling profoundly connected to everyone and everything in a way that goes beyond words. I start to look at other people differently. With the storm devastation in the northeastern United States, I think it’s a particularly good time for an OPS Day.

So what do I do on OPS day? Everyone I see, I imagine myself in that person’s skin. For example, I’m sitting in Starbucks right now and as I look around at the other patrons, I try to feel what it’s like to be them, even if I have to do a lot of imagining. When I put my heart inside of them, it fills me up with love and caring and especially empathy. They’re no longer “the other”. Those folks on TV milling around in the ruins of their homes—they’re me today and I’m them. Those people waiting 8 hours in line to vote—they’re me and I’m them, even if they’re voting for the “other guy.”

Have you ever done this? Want to give it a try with me?

Have a good OPS Day!



  1. Cynthia Harris on November 5, 2012 at 11:30 am

    I know what you mean, Diane.

    I’ve been going crazy waiting for new from my nieces and family in MD, VA, GA and NC.
    The UK News reports only talk about New York and never mention other areas on the NE/SE Seaboard there.
    I’m relieved to know that most of my family members are ok, or unaffected, but still waiting to
    hear from VA.
    I think power has yet to be restored.

    My very best wishes to you xx

  2. Diane Chamberlain on November 5, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    I hope your family is safe and dry, Cynthia.

  3. Margo on November 6, 2012 at 9:20 am

    What a wonderful way to spend a day! I’m going to have to look into buying this book…what is it called, Diane? I’m very interested in reading it. One of the things I do when practicing Yoga is meditate at the beginning and end and I visualize other people and what they are feeling, but I’ve never tried being in their skin…wow…probably feels incredibly powerful.
    Best wishes to your sister who lives in New Jersey…and my deepest sympathy to all those effected on the East Coast…Diane, I know your beloved Jersey Shore is a wreck and I can’t imagine how that must make you feel.

  4. Diane Chamberlain on November 6, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    I bet you’d be great at this, Margo. you are always so empathetic. I’m not sure which book got me started on this, but it was probably No Death, No Fear. I think you’d enjoy any of his books.

  5. Sharon Kaminski on November 6, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    would love to win, thanks

  6. Gigi Ann on November 6, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    I have never tried this before, but I do enjoy watching people coming and going and try to see what famous person they remind me of. My children and my grandchildren use to do this. Sometimes it would becomes very funny.

  7. Genilee Parente on November 6, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    What a wonderful expression and thought — other people’s skin day. If only we could get everyone to have an OPS day — or even if I could get some of the politicians around here (in DC) to set aside day to take someone else’s view! What we could accomplish …

    I have become a fan of your work, Diane. And glancing through this blog, I can see that the same thought that goes into your plots goes into your everyday living. Just finished Reflections this morning with that awful feeling that is the complete opposite of overeating — starvation. I cannot believe I can’t get up tomorrow looking forward to reading the book on my breaks from everyday life. I chose that book to take on a vacation celebrating 20 years of marriage and I’m so glad I did.

  8. Diane Chamberlain on November 6, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    genilee, that touches me! I’m so glad your enjoyed Reflection.

  9. Linda H on November 7, 2012 at 10:33 am

    What a great idea!

  10. Stephanie Williams on November 7, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    OPS day… that is something I practice everyday!! Emotionally taxing but it is my purpose and gift! I am a nurse care manager- I take care of patients with complex illnesses(cancer, trauma,rare diseases etc..) I only talk to them by phone so I have to LISTEN and put myself in their “skin” to be able to support and sympathize. When you can reach outside of yourself and empathize, it really is a true gift!! This is my first time on your website/blog and I was touched by your most recent blog entry!
    I just wanted to tell you that I finished my 15th Diane Chamberlain book tonight… “Secret Lives” My very favorite so far!! Your books allow me a much needed break from my wonderful busy life as a wife, mother of 3 boys ( ages 18 months- 19 years, no that is not a typo!). You tell stories as no other author I have ever read and I am always sad when I finish a book but eager to start a new one!! Thank You! Keep them coming!!!!!!

    • Diane Chamberlain on November 7, 2012 at 10:24 pm

      Stephanie, what a full and rewarding life you have! Thanks for the compliments on my books. I’m thrilled you’re enjoying them!

  11. Jo C on November 8, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    I love to “people watch” and often find myself wondering what a person’s life is like, especially the homeless I see pushing their belongings along the street in a cart. I have never imagined myself “inside” them but do think to myself: There but by the grace of God . . . .

    As an aside … I am currently reading “The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes” and am confident it will be the first of many of your titles I read. I can honestly say that “The Secret Life …” is the first book I’ve read in quite a while that I regret having to put down. I admire your story-telling talent.

    • Diane Chamberlain on November 8, 2012 at 8:54 pm

      Thank you, Jo.

  12. Linda Hildebrand on November 9, 2012 at 9:21 am

    I am impressed that you have been having OPS days for two years. Very inspiring

  13. Steph Walford on November 10, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Atticus Finch tells his daughter Scout (To Kill a Mockingbird) that you don’t understand things from someone else’s perspective until you’ve climbed into his skin and walked around in it. The Native American Indians suggest we do not judge another before walking two moons in his moccasins. On the eve of Remembrance Sunday here in the UK how do I empathise with the Nazi? The terrorist? The rascist? For me it is about recognising those negative aspects of our personalities such as greed, superiority, envy, pride and resentment and in so doing turn towards human values that will enhance our society. For today, tomorrow and all the tomorrows to come.

    • Diane Chamberlain on November 11, 2012 at 1:14 pm

      love this, Steph. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Dana Wong on November 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Growing up Asian American, I’ve experienced my share of prejudice as have my daughters. I hate to admit it but I’m prejudiced too, although I try hard not to be. This is because we are all affected and shaped by our life experiences.

    I try to censor my words before they leave my mouth, try not to repeat racist jokes, and try to raise my daughters to empathize see others’ point of view.

    Prejudice comes from ignorance and fear, and I applaud your OPS endeavors. I think this would be a wonderful program to institute in schools, public and private. My daughters were in a private Christian school when thy were small, and another child told one daughter and a classmate that “God doesn’t love you because you’re not white”.

    • Diane Chamberlain on November 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm

      I’m so sorry your daughter received that message. You’re so right about ignorance and fear, and I love your idea of instituting an OPS day in schools! We can dream, right?

  15. Heather Cathrall on November 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    I used to do this all the time when I was college age. I loved imagining what other people’s lives were like and what they were thinking and what they had on their plate so to speak. I was less stressed and more caring in those days. I loved meeting new people and talking to them and learning about their lives. It helped me to be a great listener and find others fascinating. It’s inspiring to hear others stories.

    I’ve been so stressed and crazed lately, that sadly I find I no longer do this, and instead other people who push in front of me in line or cut me off annoy me and irritate me. I’d love to try this again and think “well maybe he cut me off because he has somewhere really important to be. Maybe he’s rushing to visit someone in the hospital. Maybe he’s racing to the airport to propose his undying love for his girlfriend before she moves away like in the movies. Maybe hes rushing to catch his son’s first soccer game.” rather than thinking someone else just rude. I think if I can go back to doing that again I’d be more pleasant and it would be better over all. I think more people should try this. Great suggestion! ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Julie Bickford on November 12, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    What a great thing to practice everyday! I try and do this especially when I’m driving. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt that if they race by and cut me off maybe they’re in a emotionally taxing situation and in a rush to get somewhere important (my husband does not share this sentiment! LOL)

    I’m just periodically checking in to see if there’s anything new in the works. I’ve read everything you’ve written so far and adore your books. LOVED The Midwife’s Confession!! I’m expecting my 4th little boy in a few months and laid up on bed rest, so I probably have more time on my hands to read then you do to write these days! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Diane Chamberlain on November 13, 2012 at 5:49 pm

      Julie, the car is a great place to practice, but soooo hard! Sorry about the bed rest, but I hope everything goes well. With FOUR boys this will be the last rest you’ll have for a long time!

  17. David Lane on November 17, 2012 at 5:50 am

    Dear Diane.
    I know that you receive e-mails all the time and its hard for you to keep up with them all, but wanted you to know that your book Summer Child brought so much joy into my life, for I’m in Afghanistan as an Police Advisor for the Afghan Police for over two years now. Its hard to find time to read books over here but as I was walking in our MWR your book was sitting on a table in front of me and the cover of the book made me pick it up and with out reading any of it I took it to my room and that night I started reading Summer Child and it was like I was home again for I have spent half my life on the Outer banks for I live in Perquimans Co NC which is just an hour away from the Outer Banks. I just want to thank you for taking me away from Afghanstain and taking me back home if only for a few days by reading Summer Child.

    • Diane Chamberlain on November 17, 2012 at 5:50 pm

      David, what a wonderful note. Thank you for the work you’re doing over there, and for letting me know I could take you away from it for a little while. I also have a trilogy set in the Outer Banks, but I don’t know how easy it is to get my books there. I DO know how the Outer Banks can get under your skin. I hope you get to go home sometime soon.

  18. David Lane on November 21, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Hi Diane,
    This is David from Afghanistan one more time. Just wanted to let you know that I found one more of your books in the MWR after turning it up side down. I’m in the middle of ( Kiss River ) and it is so good that I can almost smell salt in the air as I read this wonderful story. Thank you for taking me back to ( OBX ). O’yes I will get to go home in Jan for two weeks and guess the first place I’m going ??.

    • Diane Chamberlain on November 21, 2012 at 11:15 am

      David, I’m so glad you could find Kiss River. And thrilled you get to breathe the OBX salt air for yourself come January!!

  19. kate on January 28, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    apparently, i’ve been doing my own version of your ops, without even realizing that you had ops days. i felt inspired by something norman lear said in an interview about race and cultural differences, profoundly elegant in its truth, “i’m just another version of you.” and so, each day i look for photos of faces of individuals that are very different from me, to attach the quote to as a meme for my fb profile. every time i make a comment on fb, i see that face and try to sense the reality of that connection. many paths, one destination. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Ruth Lyons Mazur on January 29, 2015 at 2:44 am

    It’s 2:15 AM Thursday morning and I just came across your post and decided to follow thru to your blog and I’m glad I did. Winter storm Juno just whipped thru the Northeast and left only 6 inches in my town in Morris County, New Jersey, but hit the Northeast with a vengeance. The island of Nantucket was left in total darkness ( according to reports I read ) and I thought how would I feel if I were in that situation. How long would it take to restore power to the island? It’s a frightening situation. My hometown of Millbury, Massachusetts had a record snowfall of 33.5 inches, breaking a record made back in 1905! And I wonder how family and friends are managing and how would I feel if I had to dig out from the storm. My 93 year old mother fell two weeks ago and had to spend about 5 days in a nursing home/ rehab facility. She’s alert and self – sufficient . She told me yesterday that she hated being there and it was not “the place for her.” I put myself in her shoes and wondered how I would feel. As an RN I’ve done relief work in nursing homes, and, being only 25 years younger than Mom, I can imagine how I would feel. The years fly by quickly and I hope I’m as alert and able to take care of myself as well as Mom is able to. Thank you, Diane, for doing this and for reminding me just how blessed I am. Take care, stay safe and God bless, Ruth.

    • DIane Chamberlain on January 29, 2015 at 8:55 am

      Ruth, thanks for taking the time to do this and to share your thoughts with us. The years certainly do fly by and it becomes so much easier to imagine ourselves in our mothers’ places. My sister lives near you and I know you folks escaped the brunt of the snow. Wish everyone had been so lucky.

Leave a Comment