The Stories Behind People’s Actions
One morning I got on the bus to head downtown and I passed a woman sitting on the outside spot of a row of two seats effectively blocking off the inside seat from anybody else sitting down. Sometimes these buses get pretty full and I was at first very annoyed with her. But then I stopped and thought that maybe there’s something else going on here. Maybe I’m wrong for judging this woman and I tried to think of it in a new way. I thought maybe she was saving the seat for a friend. Maybe she is sick and doesn’t want to spread germs or she’s a germaphobe and was afraid of getting sick from somebody struck down by the plague. Maybe she has a social anxiety disorder that makes the possibility of small talk a certain kind of torture for her.
When we got downtown she got off on the very first stop and so I decided she didn’t want to have to say excuse me to a stranger because she has laryngitis, probably.
After work that day, as I was leaving the park & ride in my minivan, I saw a guy waiting to cross the street in a weird spot so I stopped to allow him to cross. He got very mad at me and waved furiously for me to keep going with a look that clearly said “Just drive all ready you stupid lady!” I was not so nonjudgmental this time. This time, I was seriously pissed off. I said back to him “I was being nice you jackhole. Don’t be such a dick!” the windows were rolled up so he couldn’t actually hear me but I’m sure my face clearly said something to that effect.
That evening, my husband showed me a quote off his Facebook feed:
And I thought, huh. I did a pretty good job this morning. The evening episode on the other hand was a total fail.
So, I decided to come up with another story. Maybe he felt too rushed, and wanted to wait so he could leisurely cross when there was no traffic or maybe he had a PTSD episode and he remembered the last time he was run over by a minivan. Or maybe he was a jackhole. Who knows? The important thing is that I considered that there might have been a perfectly good reason for the behaviors I witnessed that day. Though these are minor offenses, I hope I can remember that when I run across a news story that shocks me. I can think about the other possibilities. I can have compassion for somebody that makes a bad decision that ends in tragedy. We’ve all made bad decisions. We’ve all over-reacted at one time or another. We all have regrets. None of us are perfect.
This quote came from a new webpage that I now follow called Daily Stoic. They have a lot of good stuff, you should check them out. The link goes to the starter page. It has resources, exercises and interviews. I think it would be a cool little “course” to go through with a small group online. If anybody is interested, let me know and I’ll set us up a group on Facebook and we can talk about it. I would totally dig that.
They also have a book that I haven’t read yet, but plan to check out.
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See you on Wednesday for another link to a great TED Talk. May your day be filled with compassion!
Question of the day: What is your favorite quote?