Yesterday, a friend of mine posted about one of my pet peeves: those who jack up the school run by blocking the through lane. I was just agreeing with her in my head– when she went on to say something like, “But I don’t know what it is about their lives, or even their day, that makes them want to stay and watch their child walk into the building. You never know the story behind another person’s actions. So I drove around them rather than judge them.”

This new perspective was on my mind all morning.

A woman who works near my office was using a common-area phone yesterday, to make calls regarding the care of her elderly relative. The level of detail in her conversation was rather intense. My initial reaction was to be sort of appalled that she would have this conversation within earshot of others; then I thought about my friend’s perspective from this morning. I don’t really know her except by sight– so how do I know the motivations behind these calls? And who am I to judge? So, when she got off the phone, I turned to her and said, “I’m so sorry you’re having such a hard time today.” She looked blankly at me for a second. “This is….. overwhelming.” And then it was like a dam broke. She told me all about the challenge that she was handling, and how frequently she has to drop everything to manage these crises within ten or fifteen minutes, and how stressful she finds it all to be. She didn’t cry or get emotional, we didn’t establish any kind of kindred connection or anything. She just sort of vented to a sympathetic stranger, and I listened. At the end I said, “That sounds really difficult. I hope it gets easier for you this afternoon.”

This is so much better than the alternative. So, thanks to Joelle for reminding me to choose kindness.

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