Not so long ago I found myself at the mall (aka Dante’s third ring of hades) doing some back to school clothes shopping. As we walked into Children’s Place I turned between some clothes racks and found myself hilariously blocked by a boy. He couldn’t have been more than two, and he stood there with his hands on his hips laughing up at me and completely barricading the aisle with his super-cute little self. I smiled and said hello to him, and he smiled right back and just stood there giggling. As I was realizing that I couldn’t get past him to the dresses my daughter wanted to see, the mother looked over and saw what was going on. She smiled and said quite pleasantly,
“Oh! Sorry if he’s in your way!”
Then she went back to browsing through piles of shirts.
Ummmm, say what?
So I stood there for a moment, looking at the laughing defiant toddler, then turned and walked to the other side of the store.
I’ve got to admit: I was kinda perturbed. Not at Mr. Cutie-pants…but at his mom. As I rifled through Technicolor leggings I tried to analyze my irritation. It’s not that I minded in the least bit walking around that aisle. In fact, if she had been rushing over to try to move him to clear the way I would have probably quickly protested and offered to go around! The thing that irked me was her “My child (and therefore I since a kid is really an extension of one’s self) both deserve and have the right to needlessly inconvenience anyone we wish,” attitude.
I was brought up with the good ‘ol Golden Rule kind of parameters: treat others as you want to be treated. As I got older I began trying to live out what the Bible said about it.
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”
Philippians 2:3 (emphasis mine)
So I really work (and I try to teach my kids too!) to put other’s first.
That might look like:
Not grabbing a cookie until everyone else has one….
Volunteering to stand when there aren’t enough chairs…
Giving someone else the parking space if we pull up at the same (ish) time…
Letting someone go in front of you even though you know they’re going to order the last souffle at Panera….
Or offering the rest of your Shake’s frozen custard to someone because you know they really really want it (even if it’s wedding cake and there was a LOT of frosting in it).
Now I am certainly not very great at this way of living…but I do recognize that it’s the way I’m supposed to be so I aspire toward being better at it. It seems a simple enough concept: if we all put others first…we’d all be put first! Right? So we try to live it out, but then our benevolence, humility, and plain ‘ol good will is thwarted by the group I call “Diagonal Walkers.”
As you know, pedestrians legally always have the right of way over those driving in motorized vehicles. This is always true on crosswalks…and most of us certainly let people cross in front of us in parking lots, streets, intersections and other areas without trying to make them scared for their life! Some of it’s the law and some of it’s just “you’re out walking in the blazing sun and I’m in an air-conditioned car so please go ahead and get where you need to go because you’re waaaay more uncomfortable than me!” kind of thinking. As you slow down and stop to wave someone across…have you noticed THOSE PEOPLE? Oh come on, admit it, you know the ones.
Those people who pretend not to see you sitting there waiting?
Those people who never smile back or thank you for letting them cross?
Those people who–instead of walking directly across the street to the other side– take the longest possible diagonal route that gets them 10 feet closer to where they want to go and takes 20 seconds longer?
Those people whom, as they stroll purposefully slowly, occasionally glare up at you as if challenging you ?
Yeah, the diagonal walkers. I just don’t get why people seem to feel they’ve accomplished something if they let you know that they don’t care about your time/convenience and seem to find some kind of perverse joy in showing how much “more important” they are.
Diagonal walkers are the ones who throw gum on the sidewalk, smoke where they want, pile their bags in the only empty chair when others need seats, let their babies scream through movies, block your car with theirs so they can have a chat, and get loudly angry when they have to wait. They are the ANTITHESIS of the “esteeming others more highly than yourself” idea, because if anyone treated them in the same way they act, they would literally blow a gasket.
****Let me make this point clear: These aren’t those people who are absent-minded, air-headed or just oblivious. “DW” refers to those who act like this deliberately in order to show the world that they have the right to darn well do what they want. There’s a difference!***
Before this all seems like a major venting session…let me share a beautiful epiphany I was given:
Sometimes people don’t treat others the way they want to be treated because
they only know how to treat others they way they have been treated.
Let that sink in.
(I had to re-read it a few times to make sure it made sense!)
It takes a certain amount of strength to treat others kindly when the world hasn’t been very kind to you. A person needs a reserve of compassion to be the “kind one” in an one-sided interaction, and some people are so busy trying to find a shred of self-worth that they jump on any chance to make themselves feel better or more important.
Does that make their actions acceptable?
No. It’s still annoying as all get out when people plop down right in front of my carefully picked spot making it impossible to see my son’s soccer game. But, I’ve found that if I suck it up, pick up my lawn chair and move next to them while trying to have a pleasant chat and build them up a little bit, I just might get a smile and some kind words.
I think that not everyone knows about the “esteeming others highly” rule. Since I don’t have that excuse however, I can’t plead ignorance. If I follow the principle though, I have a chance to fill someone’s proverbial bucket, which could give them the strength to start golden-ruling (yes it’s a verb) themselves.
I’m pretty certain that a kind word isn’t going to cure the world of deliberate rudeness. It just might, however, make someone rethink their actions. Maybe. If it doesn’t though, that’s ok. At least it will (hopefully) prevent me from getting too grumpy toward people. It’s hard to be irritated toward someone when you’re speaking kind words to them!
Hopefully putting these words down on paper/computer screen will serve as a good reminder to myself to follow Ephesians when I find my oh-so-busy schedule stymied by a slow rambling diagonal street crosser. If you see my face getting red or steam coming out of my ears, feel free to remind me to esteem them and fill their cup. Also feel free to remind me that it’s probably a good thing that grumpy lady cut in front of me and got the last 3 quiches that my kids wanted; heaven knows I would have eaten all of their crusts and been grumpy later myself. Win-win.