I consider myself to be a nice person. When I go out into the world I try to not bring all my woes and troubles with me and it was always very frustrating to me when I encounter others who don’t feel the need to hide anything they are feeling, not only wearing their unhappiness for all to see but freely shared it with everyone.
People on their way to work in the morning would be honking their horn and pulling in and out of traffic. I would ask myself “What could make you so mad when the day just started”?
Clerks at the grocery store would scowl when they saw my cart loaded to the top and say not a word, even though I would attempt to be friendly and ask how they were doing.
When I would take my sister, who is disabled, to the doctor’s office, they would act as if she were invisible and barely look up from their computer as we checked in not realizing that the trip to the doctor is one of the highlights of her week because she gets to be out among other people.
People in line at the DMV would loudly make statements about inefficiencies and others would join in until everyone was standing in line complaining – people you are at the Department of Motor Vehicles what did you think was going to happen and what are you solving by riling others up.
I would come home unsettled by these events, wondering why everyone couldn’t just be friendly and kind and understand that they weren’t making anything better by honking, scowling and sharing their unhappiness which was affecting me in a negative way.
I began making up stories in my head, lying to myself about why they were acting out, blessing them on their journey whatever it may be and suddenly everything changed.
The early morning honkers might have been up with a sick child all night and were just plain tired.
The clerk at the grocery store may have an elderly parent with Alzheimer’s and they are not doing well.
The nurse at the doctor’s office has lost so many patients she has gotten to know that she shields herself from hurt by simply doing her job without interacting.
And the gentleman in line at the DMV just lost his job and is there to get the title to his car so he can sell it and feed his family and pay the bills.
You see none of these are probably true, but they might be.
What is true is that we are all fighting a battle unseen by others. We can’t possibly know what goes on in the life of another or the depth of their faith or strength to deal with what burdens they are given to carry.
Does it excuse bad behavior? The truth is that in the few minutes I interact with them I am not going to change them, but I know for sure that me joining in solves nothing. If I can remain kind and compassionate and not allowing their actions or attitude change the way I choose to treat them, then we all win.
Since I began doing this I have noticed an amazing thing, not only am I happier and unaffected by the actions of others but on occasion the person who is acting out softens and begins to act more civilly.
So today try making up stories when your path crosses strangers, practice your compassionate empathy without having to know their story.
Give your blessing freely with a gentle heart and the thought that it may be the only blessing they receive for the day and even though they can’t hear you the universe is listening and so is the one person who really matters in the end, he is always listening.