I was a little behind and the traffic wasn’t my friend. Everyone on the road seemed irritable. I was grumbling. Everyone was grumbling. I have rarely seen as many cars do as many mean and nasty things as their drivers fought to get ahead in a situation where it’s impossible to get ahead.
Funny, although I was in a hurry and in a bad mood, I waved more cars out in front of me on this commute than on most. They weren’t having any fun being stuck trying to get out of parking lots or parking spaces or driveways or little side roads as a seemly infinite line of cars snaked past.
The same day the person who is currently doing the job I left two years ago had some questions so I took some time out to help. And another co-worker seemed down so I stopped and chatted for a minute even though I had better things to do. That is better as far as work getting done is concerned.
I won’t get the Nobel Peace prize for any of these little niceties. Taken together nobody will put me up for Sainthood. Most of the people involved will have forgotten within minutes, and to many of them I was just an anonymous stranger.
So why did I do these things?
Because I’ve been the car stuck trying to get out of parking space while a long line of cars blocked me in, sometimes racing up, screeching to a halt in front of me to ensure I couldn’t get out. Because I’ve been new to a job and needed help. Because I’ve been down and appreciated when somebody just chatted.
I did these small things because I am human. The people around me are all humans. I’m no better than them and my time no more important. Of course they are no better than I am nor is their time more important than mine. We are all one human family and we need to get along.
One of the first posts I put up as part of #1000Speak was titled “Never too Big”. It was centered on the story of how Vince Wilfork, a football player who is both physically big and a big player on a big team, stopped to help a lady on his way home from a very big game. The point was you are never too big to reach out a hand to those in need, to show compassion.
It goes the other way too. You are never too small and a kind act is never too small. Few of us has a chance to show compassion in a really big way on a day to day basis but we can do numerous small acts of kindness. We can give a smile where needed. We can let the person with one item in front of us when we have a full cart. And letting that car out puts behind less than tenth of a second, so why do some make such a big fuss about it? These small things help make life better.
I do have a few “rules of engagement”. Showing compassion is not the same as pity. I’m reaching out one human to another with understanding, not feeling sorry for a person. Pity seems to create levels. I’m always honest. I will not say a kind word if I don’t mean it. Yes, there are times when someone does something real nasty and I’d rather hit them than help them, but I do try to be honest when I do stick out me hand. I never expect any acknowledgement or accept a reward of any type. If you expect something, that is not compassion. I try to treat all people in an equal manner. “Equal manner” is not saying “exactly the same”. We are all different and we have to recognize those differences. I recognize we are all humans with our own needs and insecurities.
For the past month I’ve had a personal vision of compassion that I’ve been sharing on most of my posts on the subject.
Empathy is the glue that holds society together and compassion is what makes a group of people a civilization. Without holding our hands out to our fellow humans we become savages. We are all in this together, in a closed system, so we must all help each other. How lonely life must be for those selfish people who don’t realize this simple truth! How lonely for anyone who doesn’t realize that all are our brothers and sisters! How lonely must the self-righteous be!
When I finished my commute the other day I did feel a little grumpy about the time, but I actually felt good. Each time I let another pedestrian cross the snowy street or a car pull out in front of me my spirits raised just a little bit. I didn’t do it to help me, but it did.
You are never too big and there is no act of kindness too small. The more we act with kindness the better the world will be. And you might just feel a little better about yourself.
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Image of traffic signal created by Kevin Payravi, Wikimedia Commons