I wasn’t sure what this week’s topic would be until Saturday morning’s run. Maybe that clarity about a writing topic came from the spring beauty that was everywhere! My topic became crystal clear as I caught myself reflecting on many conversations from the past week, and recognized a common theme among all of them. We know very little about a lot of things (which sounds like a sharp contradiction to last week’s post, The Truth About a Lot of Things :)!
Specifically, we know very little about what is going on in someone else’s life. One of my all-time favorite images occasionally floats around social media. I drew the image on a napkin while enjoying the BEST conversation with my mom on Friday night, in which we both agreed: we know very little about what is going on in someone else’s life.
Mom and I talked about frustrations felt between her patrons. One patron has been particularly difficult this past week, lashing out at others. As Mom engaged in a conversation with her, she was reminded that Cindy lost her partner 12 years ago. The memories and the loss have been getting the best of Cindy, and her words and actions as of late have been less than friendly. We never know what is going on in someone else’s life.
This past week, two of our boys had minor surgeries. We are thankful that they were minor, we are thankful that the (two separate) issues are resolved, and we are thankful that Bill and I were able to divide and conquer, taking each to their appointments on separate days.
As Emmett and I waited in the pre-surgery room for his surgery, we overheard parts of a conversation in the room next door. Earlier, we had seen two young boys, maybe ages 12 and 13, navigate their way through the front desk check-in and to the pre-surgery area, five floors away. This was fascinating to watch, not only because of their age, but because of a language barrier: the boys were of Asian descent, and spoke very little English. Those two boys landed in the room next to ours, and were having a heck of a time trying to communicate with the nurses.
Through bits and pieces of conversation, we were able to gather that their mom was with their one-year-old brother trying to find a parking spot, and unsure if she could join them because of visiting restrictions. From our spot one room away, it sounded as if the nurses were frustrated, likely because of the language barrier. They were able to get an interpreter on the phone, which helped, but there were still difficulties with clear communication.
Throughout the interaction, I caught myself judging much of what I witnessed. My judgement started with the two young boys being sent into the hospital by themselves to check in for whatever surgery was needed. Where were their parents? Who would send their children in unattended? Hadn’t they thought of the problems their language barrier would cause? And then, when they were situated in pre-surgery with the nurses… Why couldn’t those nurses be more kind? Can’t they empathize with the fear these boys must have?
No matter who I was judging (shame one me), at the end of the day it is not my place to judge. I have no clue what is going on in any of those people’s lives: the children, the parents, the nurses. Insert above infographic. Shame on me.
I frequently catch myself thinking, “There is no excuse for that (insert ‘undesirable’) behavior .” As it turns out, there may not be an excuse, but there sure may be an explanation that I am not privy to. I may recognize that there is a better way to react to difficult situations, but I come to that understanding with the privilege of my life circumstances. AND I don’t always react well in difficult situations.
Above all else, I write this blog for my own learning… and I have much to learn. If it sounds like I’ve got this “Be Kind” thing figured out, let me be clear: I do not! My positive mindset, my “Be kind to others” messages are a daily work-in-progress. Daily. I can be frustrated with others when they come across as negative, or when I perceive them to be unkind, and quickly forget my own advice. This is a daily effort.
A kind word and/or action goes a long, long way. And it’s so darn easy to extend an authentic kind word. May this blogpost be the writing I needed to wade through those inevitable tough situations, to suspend judgment, and to extend kind words, thoughts, and actions to others with a greater amount of frequency.
Happy 20th birthday, Owen… and Happy Easter to those who celebrate it!