I just got back from doing a few, quick morning errands – and I’m feeling good. Not good – because I got them out of the way before it gets really hot outside. Not good – because now have the time to do the writing and coaching related projects I need to accomplish. Not good – because there were fewer cars on the road due to tomorrow’s holiday. But good because people seemed unusually polite and generous this morning.
Hopefully, without sounding like an old woman, reminiscing about the “good old days”, I can say that I can’t help but feeling like this sort of kindness used to be the norm years ago. People just treated each other more civilly, or so it seemed. These days everyone seems so wrapped up in their own lives and priorities that they seem to see other people as mere obstacles in their path, to be passed out, knocked over, maneuvered around and defeated in an invisible competition for first place in a daily race to nowhere. I think it speaks a lot to the stress everyone is feeling – it’s as if we have created personalized, myopic vision in which others just don’t matter.
There are isolated times when the veil is lifted – and people are able to see each other again. I noticed this phenomenon first after 9/11. Connected by a collective grief and shock – there was a kindness to casual interactions that only days before did not exist. It happened again after the Marathon bombing. It’s as if people quietly were each reminded of the humanity in each other. Tragedy slams us into the realization that these obstacles in our paths are in fact, regular people, just like us. Sometimes, the holidays can bring this on, too. I remember always feeling like strangers treated each other more civilly on Christmas, for instance. But as time passes from tragedy or holiday – many of us slip back into our singular self-absorbed worlds.
So that’s why I was surprised today when fellow shoppers held doors for one another, or allowed cars to pull in front of them – I just wasn’t expecting it. Tomorrow is a holiday, the 4th of July, so maybe it’s just bleed over, but whatever it is – we need more of it. I don’t suppose the guy who let me take a left-hand turn into the bank parking lot in front of him this morning, had any idea that three hours later I would still be thinking of that little moment of generosity, nor the person who held the door at the convenience store, or the friendly smiling face of the cashier. But there was something in the air this morning – and it effected me.
It’s a good reminder – for me and for all of us to recognize that each person with whom we come into contact has their own challenges, stresses and gifts. That each person, should be treated with dignity, respect and kindness. That we are all just trying to do our best here. that it’s easier to be kind then we might think it is. And – that we are not alone. Each life is separate, each struggle a personal challenge, but each inextricably dependent on one another for peaceful coexistence. A month or so ago – there was a single winner of a large lottery jackpot – and as the story unfolded we learned that one woman had let the elderly woman who purchased the winning ticket step ahead of her in line. And while she could have been racked with regret by giving away her chance to win the big jackpot, she was okay. There was no regret. A sense that it turned out the way it was meant to – comforted her decision. I don’t know how many of us would have felt that way.
So as you go off into your day today (and everyday) may I suggest that you – “lift the veil”. Those people out there, the ones that cut in front of you in line and drive too slowly – are PEOPLE! Real-life, flesh and blood humans, just like you – with their own joys, sorrows and struggles. Try seeing them with your heart, rather than your head – try treating them the way you want to be treated. It’s up to us people – a little kindness goes a long way – make someone’s day! Happy Independence Day – don’t forget that we are all Interdependent! 🙂