Tuesday, September 23, 2014
A few months back I was in a store and the check out lady was being very difficult. Normally I just shrug off this type of behavior as the product of something that happened in the person's day and move on with my life. Unfortunately I was also having a rough day and I wasn't my best self. Don't get me wrong, I didn't make a scene or throw a fit, that's not me. I was, however, sarcastic and clearly annoyed. I left the store angry with her, angry with myself. I stewed about it for ages. Initially I was just super upset with the woman (what she did is really of no consequence though), but I began to wonder why-if she was in the wrong- was I feeling so terrible for days after the event. Eventually my head cleared enough of the emotional debris that clutters a tense moment. I reminded myself that I had no way to control that woman and her bad attitude. The only control I have is my reaction and that day my reaction was sarcasm, the lamest reaction to have. Clearly not a great revelation, but a good reminder.
Slowly I have let that moment pass into my memory as a learning experience. Well, that is until last week when I spotted the woman and her young daughter at a thrift store. My initial reaction was a desperate need to escape any contact with her. Then I thought about how long I had pondered this encounter. I felt bad for losing my cool and forgetting that she has her own problems, which had clearly spilled over into my world. I took a deep breath and with my two girls in the shopping cart I walked right over to her. I was most certainly prepared for a second dose of her bad attitude, but I needed to get something out there. I took a deep breath and said, "A few months ago I went through your line and I was not my best self. It has been bothering me ever since and I am sorry."
She looked surprised. She smiled. She said, "No big deal." And that was that. She didn't return the apology and that was fine, I didn't want her apology. I just needed to move past my moment of negativity. Our daughters spoke for a moment. Her daughter was four, close in age to Cordelia, but she clearly had some sort of disability. I looked at that woman and smiled, wishing her a nice day and then we left. My heart was a bit lighter. I got the instant reminder that each person is fighting their own battle, and that is something I can't afford to forget.
Cordelia asked me about the experience and I explained in simple terms what had happened. I want my girls to see that it is OK to make mistakes and to just move forward, growing beyond them. If I teach my children nothing else in this life I do hope that I am able to teach them the importance of simple kindness. I want them to see me do my very best to be kind and I want them to follow suit. To that end our family has started a new practice. Every night at dinner we are sharing something kind that we did for another, this isn't a brag moment, just a way to keep our family focused. Cordelia really understands and is excited. Elise kind of gets the idea at age two. So with her Eric and I will help her recall something she has done like helping me cook dinner or putting away her toys or giving her grandpa a big hug.We know that at the end of the day we will be asked to report something small that we did for another, a compliment, a door held, whatever. Hopefully this will help us all to remember that kindness is important every day. This is also a way that we can give our children positive feedback for their good deeds, however small they may be.