Walking out of the grocery store last night, an elderly man hurriedly crossed my path as I pushed my toddler daughter and our groceries in the cart towards our car.
I looked and saw a car parked on a diagonal. Since I hadn’t quite passed it yet, I couldn’t really see what the issue was.
“It’s on a diagonal, but it’s in the lines I am guessing. It’s a handicapped spot,” I explained, trying to make excuses for the completely-unaware shopper who must have still been making his or her way around the store.
“I don’t care! I wrote him a note. I’m going to put it on his car,” the elderly man said defiantly, putting a note under the windshield wiper and then huffing and puffing away.
I mean, this man was so mad, it almost made me laugh. Why was he even telling me? Even if the driver had parked crazy, what of it? I mean, there was so much space in between the two handicap parking spots that even if someone had to lower a wheelchair down, there would still be room.
I walked past the fuming man to put my groceries in the car and unload my daughter. I had just gotten the groceries in when I noticed the man walking away.
I don’t really know what came over me in that moment, but the minute his back was turned, I decided it was my business after all. I walked to the car with the horrible parking job, my daughter still in my arms, and removed the note that the man had just left under the windshield, taking it with me to my own car.
Perhaps, it wasn’t my place to meddle, but all I could think about was the driver returning back from running a quick errand and getting a mean letter when really the transgression was so slight it didn’t deserve all that. I felt bad just thinking about it and took it upon myself to change fate, I guess.
As I drove away with his mean scribbled note now in my passenger seat, the man’s actions got me thinking about my own. How many times have I overreacted to a small offense? How many times have I inserted myself into a situation that had nothing to do with me? How many of those times was it actually for the greater good? Last night was one of those times when it was for the greater good, but I can’t act like I haven’t been guilty of the same actions the elderly man took.
Empathy is one of those traits that really has the ability to get stronger and more intense with age. You have history that younger people don’t yet merely based upon the years you’ve been living, and, most times, a vivid recollection to give you context for people’s behaviors. But honestly, isn’t it just easier to forget about other people shoes rather than put ourselves in them?
As we cross each other’s paths today, let’s be mindful of the fact that people’s stories and journeys didn’t begin with that intersection. We don’t know what the other just experienced – a flat tire, divorce, bad health report. Heck, they could just be preoccupied because of something good – just got engaged, got a new job, had a baby, made a move. In either case, a perceived err can happen at anytime. Wouldn’t it be nice NOT to be the person who spoiled someone’s day whether it was a great day or one already in the pits?
I’m not trying to act holier than thou. I’ve definitely cussed out a few folks in my day whom I felt had it coming. Lol! That being said, every day I try to be better and every day that I try, I am. If my mean ole self can be, anyone can. It’s as simple as the attempt.