I’ve met two kinds of people today under similar circumstances that behaved in totally opposite ways. But before I get to that, let me preface this. I’ve been watching a lot of old films from the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s and have noticed that people were not afraid to express themselves to each other. If something was irritating or if someone was in the way, it was made known. The way people responded, however, was what interested me most. They didn’t get irritated with each other. They simply reacted in understanding, recognizing that other people have feelings and are effected by their environment and those around them. They didn’t take things personally.
So, I got to thinking about that and how I behave with others, particularly strangers. If someone gets in my way, I would generally get irritated and hold my anger in rather than say anything. If they cut me off in traffic, same thing. If someone acts in a way that isn’t considerate of others or, specifically, me, I would just alter my own plans to accommodate whilst harboring anger toward them for being rude, thus causing tension and anxiety within myself. Then it occurred to me that it was not only unhealthy for me, but it was not considerate of others. I wasn’t giving them the opportunity to recognize and act on their actions nor to improve their future behavior. By expressing myself like they did in the old movies, but improved with love and kindness, I could at the very least not cause anxiety in myself. So here’s how that worked out today.
I’m at the laundromat. I went in to get a cart to more easily haul my laundry from the car. On the way out, a man had parked right in front of the door, blocking the only ramp. I paused, looking for another easy path. He closed his truck’s door and said, “Are you going by?” I responded, “Well, I was planning on using the ramp.” I pointed to it. He said he’d help me get the cart down the step, lifted it and placed it on the driveway. I said, “Thank you very much, but I’ll be coming back with a heavy load.” He was irritated and said, “Well, I’ll be gone by then.” I said, “Okay, well, thank you again.” Moment later I returned with my heavy cart and he hadn’t moved yet. I didn’t even have time to formulate another plan before he rushed over and picked my cart up onto the sidewalk. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “I thought I’d be moved by now.” I thanked him profusely and told him how much I appreciated his help and how I understood his wanting to be close to the door. I wished him a good day and he smiled. It was then that I realized his earlier irritation wasn’t with me but with himself for his inconsideration. But my letting him know gave him the opportunity to make it right.
An hour later, I’m putting my items into dryers and have four dryers I’ve opened, three of which I’ve begun to fill. The fourth is above the one I’m currently working on. A man comes up and throws his towels in the one above my head. “Oh! I was just about to use that one,” I said. “Well,” he said, “I can’t read your mind. The dryer was empty and open so I took it.” And he continues to put his items inside. Now, I had given him the opportunity to behave with kindness, and he chose otherwise. Unfortunately for him, it would have been simpler to take dryers elsewhere because he wouldn’t have had to fight for working space with anyone. So, I removed my things from the lower dryer and moved them over to another and said to him, “Here. I’d be happy for you to take this dryer under yours so that you can keep all your clothes together.” The woman near me smiled in approval. The man angrily walked away then returned with more clothes and said, “So, which ones am I allowed to use?!” I bit my sarcastic tongue and said, “If you take those there we won’t be in each other’s way.” I smiled and left him alone, even as he criticized my every move after that and as I struck up a congenial conversation with the woman.
What I’ve learned is that it’s okay to be upset when something isn’t right or when I am not treated with respect. Somehow in society we’ve taught ourselves that we shouldn’t get upset about things or, at the very least, that we shouldn’t show it. We’ve got to hold it in. But it’s human nature to have feelings. If we temper them with thoughtful expression and don’t just fly off the handle, then I don’t see why it’s such a bad thing to express them.
These two guys today were probably not accustomed to anyone like me. They weren’t accustomed to anyone pointing out their flaws, for one thing. But it is certainly highly unlikely that they expected me to be thankful, kind, and generous in each prospective situation. I’d like to think I’ve shown them another way to behave or made them more conscious of others, but I can’t be certain because I’ll likely never see them again. What I am certain of is that I acted rightly and, in the process, saved myself a lot of undue stress and anxiety. I gave these men an opportunity to act properly and did all I could do to improve these situations. I’m satisfied with that.
So, in closing, it was an interesting study in human behavior today…including my own.
a tiny voice
P.S. As a side note, isn’t this what we do in relationships sometimes? We don’t communicate things with one another — a partner’s habit we find annoying, the child’s toys repeatedly left out, or the loud music we play that disturbs other family members — because we are afraid of hurting them or damaging the relationship. Imagine, however, if a line of communication about these things was formed — if a dialogue was established with truth and love so that an unspoken anger didn’t build up between one another until nothing was left but resentment? But that’s a topic for another day.