Recently I’ve been traveling quite a bit, speaking across the country at colleges (shout out to NAU, NIU, KSU, & UTC). Something happened during one of these trips that I wasn’t so proud of. It was something I did that served as a reminder that there are always opportunities to deepen in our compassion and loving for ourselves and others.
Here’s the scene: It’s the end of a long day of travel – one that began hours earlier and ended later than it should have due to weather and delays. I’m tired and cranky and just want to get to my hotel.
This particular plane was small, so I had to valet check or pink tag my bag. If you’ve not done that before it means you drop your carry-on bag at the gate and pick it up at the gate when you arrive at your destination.
So, I’m in a line full of people waiting for their bags along the gateway. Two lines have formed against both sides leaving a space in the middle so that people exiting the plane can get through. We are all waiting impatiently. It’s like 1 degree – literally – and everyone is cold and ready to get on with their evening.
I look up and see a man stop right in the middle. I think “Is he planning to stand there and wait for his bag? Not a good idea. He’s gonna block traffic. What’s he doing?”
He proceeds to stand in the middle. People are trying to get around him and he isn’t moving.
After a little while, he finally heads back to the front and stands in the spot where our bags – ok, my bag – will be dropped. Now, I’m starting to get frustrated. It seems like such common sense to me. “Get out of the way! What a total jerk!”
(You see, I had lots of compassion and loving for this man in this moment! Not!)
An older woman across from me was watching the man too. She seemed curious about him (whereas I seemed totally annoyed)…so, when he walked back into the middle again, she asked him one simple question: “Sir, do you need some help?”
The man replied by shaking his head yes. He said, “I usually have a wheelchair meeting me. I’m not used to all these people and I’m not sure where I’m supposed to stand.”
(Face palm. Who’s the jerk now?! That would be me.)
Then he says – stuttering a little bit: “I’m recovering from a concussion, so my thoughts don’t work like they used to.”
(OMG – now, I feel like a total a**hole!)
I made so many assumptions about him because I was so concerned about myself. About my own crankiness and getting out of the cold and into my hotel room. I immediately applied some loving kindness to myself – as a few parts of me wanted to judge me as a total jerk and an a**hole. And, I knew those kinds of judgments don’t help at all.
Then I looked for the learning – which was a beautiful reminder that the stories that go on in my head aren’t true a lot of the time. The assumptions I made about this man or make about anyone, including myself for that matter, aren’t usually true. And, the only way to know the truth is to find out by asking. Which is what that beautiful woman did – “Sir, do you need some help?”.
Simple. Loving. And full of compassion.
I was so grateful to witness this kindness. To see it modeled so beautifully in front of me with such ease and grace.
And, I’m sharing it with you today to remind you as well. When you next find yourself in a heated or annoyed state, ask yourself – is what I’m telling myself about this circumstance true? 100% true? Then see if you can find an opening for a little more kindness and compassion.
Kindness wasn’t my first response in that moment – and, that’s ok because I’m human AND I got a valuable lesson out of it.
If you have a story where you maybe weren’t your kindest and most loving self – you are welcome to share about it in the comments. That way I won’t be the only one! And, I invite you to share your learning from that experience too.
Thank you for being here and being a part of this community.