I saw a post on Facebook this week. I don’t even care if it is true. It made me stop and think. A young man was cut off and flipped off by another driver as they were both entering a Starbucks. He sees the man in line and offers to pay for his coffee. The man is grateful for this generous act and shocked when the young man informs him that he is the same person he’d just flipped off. The man apologized and shared how we was under so much stress.
The writer concludes, “Because we tend to celebrate people getting revenge, or “getting what they deserve, my question is, when does it end? When does the fighting and anger stop? It’s only when PEACE makes its way in and overcomes.” In other words, the young man not only wished things were different, he MADE them different.
Many of us are feeling frustrated and helpless when we watch the suffering from terrorist attacks like we are seeing in Brussels and elsewhere, and we wish someone would do something. That something is the every day acts of kindness to our fellow man that eases the angers, embraces the outcast, models new ways to resolve conflicts. That someone is found walking in our very shoes.
It takes a conscious effort to respond to anger with a kind gesture, to reply to impatience with forebearance, to listen when you feel like shouting back.
I recall a few years ago driving home from a Taylor Swift concert with a friend and our teenage daughters. We were aghast at the aggressive drivers we constantly encountering. We started playing a game, “Benefit of the Doubt” in which we tried to rationalize why each driver was being so rude and dangerous.
“Oh man, they have to get home to their sick two year old with the medicine from the pharmacy!”
“That guy just lost his job and he’s not sure how to tell his wife. They just bought that house!”
“She just got a call from school to come and pick up her sick daughter who is throwing up in the office!”
The more incredible or fantastical, the better. We’d laugh hysterically adding more ‘justifiable’ details to excuse their self-centered aggression, totally diffusing the situation and disarming our incredulity. Our daughters thought we were nuts, but still remember how we handled our frustrations that day. A few months ago when we encountered another “idiot driver” my daughter asked, “Oh no, you’re not going to play Benefit of the Doubt again, are you?”