Monday, October 19, 2015

The One Wrong and the Two Doors

I’m not sure how often life makes you stop and go “wow.”  I know my kids have given me these moments, sure, but in terms of grace being shown randomly, that’s rare.  I just had one of these moments, and I wanted to share the experience.

The week prior, I was sitting at a stop light waiting to make a left turn.  There was no green arrow for these lights.  So I waited and inched forward.  The car across from me did not have his signal on, but he took a left turn.  I did not turn because I could see the guy behind him also did not have his signal on, and he could have been going straight.  Well, he didn’t go straight either…  That’s when the person behind me began to blare on his horn.

I knew who the person was.  He was a regular on my bus.  We’d been on the same bus for years.  Though we have never spoken to each other, I had seen him outside of work and attempted to smile.  It had never been returned.  I knew he drove a white truck.  And I knew it was that truck behind me wailing its horn.  And it was not just one honk, it was a long and insistent blare until I finally made my turn.         

I was so angry.  It really ruined the next hour for me because I felt so disrespected.  It was rude and, well, he was being a complete jerk.  Excuse me for being a cautious driver, right?  Could he see what I was seeing?  No.  He was seeing people turning and me not turning.  Could he observe the absence of a blinker like I could?  NO!  I could not guess where these people were going. 

Well, this morning, the infamous driver of the truck sat right next to me on the bus.  How dare he!  Boy, I was mad.  I was also slightly horrified.  He must have known it was me he was honking at, right?  I did not even look at him.  I kept my eyes either on my tablet (until the bus started rolling because I get motion sickness if I read in a vehicle) or in the complete opposite direction of the truck driver.  I wanted to say something, but I pushed down my anger.  I could not change him being a total jerk.  At least, that was my train of thought, so why bother saying something and starting an argument at 7 in the morning? 

Finally we arrived downtown and got off the bus.  I was still flustered and thinking it was going to be an annoying day.  I got close to the doors of my building.  A man, also heading to work, reached the entrance before me.  I barely registered him as I was so clouded with my own internal frustration.  Then the man opened the doors, turned around, and said to me, “Here you go,” sweeping his hand to indicate I should enter.  

Talk about surprised.  Talk about having the wind blown out of your sails!  My anger became completely unbalanced.  In its place came a smile, and I responded to the other person, “well, thank you!” 

Feeling a weight off of my shoulders and thanking God for the gift of kindness I received, I headed towards the employee elevators.  Such a small thing, a random person opening the door for another, but it lifted my spirit.  I was not encumbered with bags or anything that might indicate I needed help.  The gentleman just offered a courtesy to a passerby.  Thus, feeling a lot better, I approached the doors to the staff elevators. 

But the grace was not quite over.  Another man reached the doors to the elevator bay, opened them, and then waited for me to get there, holding it open so I could walk through.  I was not quite to the entryway, so he was holding them open for a few seconds (not like I was right behind him).  Yet, he saw me approach and offered me a kindness.  Again, shocked and smiling, I gave my thanks. 

Wow.  I rode the elevator feeling immensely touched and humbled.  I knew there was a special hand in these events.  A morning that was once filled with anger and thoughts of snapping back at someone ended in total gratefulness. 

How long do we hold on to our anger?  It can affect our entire day if we let it.  I was poised to let one encounter from a week ago ruin my day.  Instead, I was reminded that there is more in life to see and to recognize.  Why was that one moment in time still weighing me down? 

Seen the below illustration before?  It speaks to me, but it’s also very easy to forget!

Reading negative reviews of one’s book can have a similar effect.  I know I’ve made mistakes, but I try to read through the reviews and see what I can learn from them.  However, I cannot read all of them.  Some are just plain mean.  But when people have a platform which gives them room to critique without any sort of consequence, it’s very easy to go negative.  Soapboxes are everywhere!  And this is fine but it can be hurtful to others, with or without the reviewer realizing it.  I don’t think reviewers know that the authors do read the reviews.  Typically, they’re written for other readers.  That’s how I used to write them.  Thankfully, a few reviewers have helped me to update the latest version of my book I’m planning to release.  Their critique pointed out errors in grammar or word placement that I had missed.   

If only we could look at all negative situations like that, but it’s hard to see the learning moment when we’re frustrated and hurt.  It’s hard to put in the effort to see past mean words and glean a nugget of hope to build upon.  It’s a skill that takes practice.  Honestly, I’m not quite there yet.  My skin is not that thick. 

When I was honked at, I was surprised and also confused.  It wasn’t a honk alerting me to approaching danger, it was a honk of annoyance.  It clouded my judgement, and I almost turned in front of someone else who actually was going straight.  I could have hurt myself by letting my frustration control my actions.  And I had let that feeling stay with me. 

This morning, I was reminded that I cannot necessarily change the way others will treat me.  However, I can change my outlook.  Instead of taking offense to negative reviews, I can remind myself that I worked hard and created something unique.  Not everyone is going to like it and that is fine.  I like it, and I’m proud of what I wrote.  I can let go of my anger.  I can offer kindness.  I can give a smile.  I can choose patience when someone is slower than me.  That’s what I can do.  I can even open a door for a stranger.