What if we slowed down when that obnoxious driver whizzes past us in the right lane, and what if we went one step further and were actually intentional about letting him over? What if—during that split second when we want to speed up—
What if we dialed it back and considered what that person might be experiencing? What if we were to choose grace and patience rather than irritation and intolerance? Because, if we really knew the situation, maybe we would know that it’s a man in a hurry to pick up his little girl from daycare but couldn’t afford to leave work a minute earlier because he is the only providing parent. Or, perhaps it is an overcommitted daughter rushing to see her elderly mother who, otherwise, would be eating a lonely meal in a newly empty home after just losing her husband. Or maybe this is the person who is angry and resentful and rushing through life trying to reach a better place; always off-putting and relentlessly rejected by others. What if--just what if-- we took the time to slow down and let them in?
From birth, we are taught about the importance of independent success. Unilateral decision-making; looking out for number 1; finishing on top. Always. Do. Your. Very. Best. Be a winner. THE winner. We all too often forget that there is so much to learn by sometimes simply taking the backseat and allowing someone else’s journey, needs, or situation to take precedence over our own. And so much of how we define success is based on perspective. After all, in the end, the winner of the race simply took less time to run. But, if you think about it, the person who came in last, well, she got to spend the most time in the presence of others, being more mindful, enjoying the view, doing what it is that she loves. So much of life is about our frame of reference and what we are willing to sacrifice in order to allow someone else to experience happiness.
In our bubble, we tend to get so hyperfocused on meeting expectations; our own expectations, our friends’ expectations…the expectations of Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest and Glamour and Vogue etc. (the list is infinite). We begin to compare ourselves and our situations to people whom we perceive to be like us when, in actuality, we often couldn’t be more different from our “role models.” We forget that there are people around us and in other parts of the world who really need us, who are struggling to survive, who are unsure if they will have another meal or even experience another human touch. But, somehow, we are so distracted by the unrealistic demands placed on us that we lose sight of this and, instead, engage in this tireless effort to keep up and stay on top.
This certainly does not mean that we need to feel guilty or shameful about our natural emotional reactions to the world in which we live. Not at all. It’s just a reminder that we will benefit if we are mindful of all of the “noise” that gets in the way of our ability to get back to the basics. To simply be kind. To recognize that everyone is struggling with something. To slow down and let our natural inclination to love override our acquired desire to win.
I’ve actually been exercising this frame of reference over the last few months, or at least trying to. What I’ve found is that there is so much to be experienced in the presence of strangers when we allow them into our lives--like the homeless man on the corner asking for some change to whom I typically toss some cash and leave behind. All of those “shouldn’ts” go through my head: You shouldn’t give him money because he’ll buy booze, you shouldn’t roll down your window because it’s dark and the kids are in the car…shouldn’t, shouldn’t, shouldn’t… What I’ve found is that it is so much more rewarding to live less inside of my head and just roll with the natural desire to lean in; to reach out, to stop and talk, and to hope that this person will allow me into his world for just a few minutes.
I’m not suggesting that we be martyrs; in fact, quite the opposite. What if--just what if--we said “yes” when other people offer us the privilege of being part of their journey? What if we stop worrying about how we might get slighted and, rather, focus on how we can empower others? What if we use our gift, whatever that may be, to make someone else’s day just a little bit more tolerable? I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time running in circles and trying to get the necessary daily tasks accomplished. I don’t want the days to collect into a lifetime of frenzy. I’m simply suggesting that we slow down a bit, just a bit, so that, at the end of our collection of days, we can be content in knowing that we’ve used our gifts to effect some positive change in some small way.
So, what if we are more intentional about being present for each other and simply take the time to think about how we can make today just a little bit better for someone else?
What if we relish in someone else’s success?
What if we choose compassion over judgment?
What if we simply let someone in?
What. If. ...