I heard a radio host talking the other day about how we all need to be patient during the holidays.
He said essentially, listen, everyone’s in a rush, everyone’s trying to get it all done. The lines are too long. The days are too short. Take a deep breathe.
Sometimes we just need shorthand reminders, quick mental mantras to snap us into niceness when we’re tempted to get nasty to the stranger who cuts us off in line.
I recently read one I liked: “Don’t be an asshole.”
This was how author Anne Lamott summed up her father’s advice to the inmates he taught English to at San Quentin during the 1950’s and 60’s.
“He treated them with respect and kindness. His main philosophical and spiritual position being: Don’t be an asshole.”
I was shopping at Target today and in my blurry robotic movements I must have stepped in front of a lady and her granddaughter at checkout. I had no idea. I mean I’m not the most tuned into my environment person on the planet.
People pass me all the time in stores, at the YMCA, from their car. They see me but I don’t see them. “Hey, Laura!”
“Oh hi,” I say and suddenly the person appears when only a second before they were invisible.
I’d be fired from Neighborhood Watch. The only strangers I notice are the ladies who ring my doorbell and tell me about the Last Days and how I might avoid the fury.
I don’t see newly painted houses or the second story addition. HOA-banished yard art and huge parked RV’s go by unnoticed. I should pay more attention to subdivision offenses but I tend to focus on what’s directly in front of me. “Hyper-focusing” is what someone who has ADD once told me.
“It’s okay, honey,” the lady says to her granddaughter, “We’ll just go around this woman who just cut us off.” She was loud. Clearly she wasn’t interested in a quiet whispering dig to make her point and let off steam. She wanted everyone around to see who committed the crime. They did. The two ladies in front of me turned around.
I was shaken out of my clueless stupor and embarrassed.
“Oh I’m so sorry” I said (nicely).
“It’s okay,” she said in a less angry tone.
Before I could meet her eye to eye so our humanness could connect and soften the tense moment she skirted around me and hurried off to another line.
I felt my temper heat up for a second, that indignant blood rush of “How dare you!” Ten years earlier I might have fired back something slightly snarky even after I apologized.
But I’m older now with less interest and energy in being chronically offended. Being offended leaves an ugly residue inside you you eventually want to clean up.
If we’re nice to the not-so-nice they’ll probably feel kind of shitty. Maybe this will give them pause the next time someone cuts them off.
I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t teach this. “Be nice to the slighted so they’ll feel bad about themselves and be nicer next time.”
Whatever gets grace done.