A “Random” Action
I slowed my car while swerving slightly out of my lane, crossing the double yellow line. At the same time, an oncoming car drove towards me more than a hundred yards away. Neither of us were in any danger of collision. I continued to slow down as I gently glided back into my own lane.
A Typical Reaction
When I passed the oncoming car, the driver mouthed the word “casserole” to me, which got me all confused. While I’m not a huge fan of casseroles, I couldn’t understand why such an ostensibly neutral word such as casserole would come out of a face that looked so angry. Then he stuck out a finger from his left hand, and I broke the code. He wasn’t calling me a casserole. Apparently, my driving displeased him.
The Real Motivation
He hadn’t seen the three deer edging towards the road, caught in between leaping out in front of us and retreating back into the woods. By the time the other driver passed me, the deer disappeared back into the forest. Not seeing the danger, the he judged my actions instead of my motivation. Had he seen the three deer, he would have slowed down, too, and he might have even waved to me as a thanks.
The Motivation Behind the Action
At times, I know I react to the behavior of others as if my perspective is the only one that exists. During the last month, I have spoken with people who’ve suffered with serious illnesses, fallen off the wagon, gone through divorce, faced unemployment, or experienced the first series of holidays since the passing of a loved one. Had I not talked with these people, I might have seen their behavior as cold, distant, or even angry. But when I learned what they were going through, my heart softened and my kindness towards them increased.
Scottish minister, Ian MacClaren famously said this oft-quoted line:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
A Worthy Goal
Why should I wait until I hear about or see firsthand the demons (or deer) lurking in the shadows—driving some people to behave in ways I don’t understand—until I offer them kindness, empathy, and compassion? I shouldn’t. And this year, I want to treat everyone I meet with the same amount of grace that I have so often received from others.
If you come across my path in 2021, I hope that I project kindness, empathy, and compassion to you, even if we never exchange words. I wish to exemplify two simple words: Be Kind.
What word or words will guide you this year?