I have worked for nonprofits for 15 years. I am blessed to see, on a daily basis, the good in those around us. I have watched the Western New York community pull together time and time again for people in need. Maybe being constantly surrounded by such goodness and generosity has me tainted, but in reverse. Someone is ill within your family? Count on strangers to donate. Your house burned in a fire? You can bet the good citizens of Buffalo will make sure your family is well taken care of.
But what of that stranger you just bumped into? Or the person you failed to open a door for? What of that person you snapped at for taking too long in line? Or the clerk with whom you lost your patience? What happened to common courtesy?
Maybe I just have a dark cloud over me, but every time I bring this subject up to others, I receive nods in agreement. What has happened to us? Must there be a tragedy to be kind to another person? Why do people walk around with a sense of entitlement? What I see is absolute disregard for others.
With this thought in mind, I have been paying close attention to how strangers interact. Try it sometime. It’s terrifying.
The other day, while in a grocery store parking lot, I turned at a stop sign ahead of another car. I thought I had the right of way. The other driver, who sped up to my tail, showed me that he thought otherwise. I waved my hand to say, “sorry about that.” I parked and paid attention to where he parked. I thought I would say “sorry” in person, too.
I leaned over to grab a bag off my front seat, turned to open my door and what do you know? The person was now at my window, yelling. He was swearing at me for what I had just “done to him.” I took a deep breath, but he kept going. I snapped. I’d had it with how I was being treated. I opened my door and yelled right back. I tried to stay calm. I tried to not hate this stranger. But here I was, being sucked into the negativity that surrounds us.
Why did this person think it was so important to yell at me? Did I cause him harm? Was his day ruined because I went first? After he finished screaming at me – while another shopper walked by with his young son – I went back in my car and cried.
I have had enough with how we treat each other, and I am guilty of it, too. Stop thinking your time is more important than everyone else’s. Stop screaming at the car next to you. Stop thinking everyone is out to get you. Stop blaming everyone else. Mistakes happen.
Show some kindness and understanding. Does it hurt to be polite? To smile? The next time someone makes a mistake, don’t berate him. Instead say, “no big deal.” You have no idea what is happening in that person’s life. He might be having a worse day than you – or maybe not. It shouldn’t matter. Just try to be civil. I have not seen the City of Good Neighbors lately; this is not the world I want my two girls growing up in.
I read a letter about a stranger who purchased a drink for a child who had spilled his at a Sabres game. Bravo, but isn’t it pathetic that this action is cause for attention? This sort of forgiveness and kindness should be the norm.
There is all this growth and good energy building around the rebirth of Buffalo. It would be great if it were reflected in its citizens, too.
Today, I will be polite and practice patience with those I don’t know. I hope you will, too.