If you were driving behind your grandmother, would you angrily honk at her for driving slow?
If you saw your younger brother waiting to cross a busy road, would you speed on by? If you’re best friend worked at 7-11, would you hastily grab your change and leave without looking him in the eye and thanking him? My guess, and perhaps my hope, is that your answers have all been no. If they were yes, go ahead and take a walk. You could use some time for reflection – come back when you are ready. For the rest of you, consider the obvious assumption that everyone you encounter in your daily life is someone’s family member or friend.
Now imagine how furious you’d be if a family member was treated poorly by a stranger. This is exactly how I felt when my Tutu (grandma) told me about her car trouble one afternoon. There she sat at the red light of a busy Honolulu intersection, on her way to see her doctor, when her Ford station wagon stalled out. And if you knew my Tutu, you’d know the last thing she ever wants to do is inconvenience another. The light turned green and the cars in her rear view began to multiply. It was an event straight out of her nightmares.
And you know what people did? They honked, shouted, and gestured as they angrily drove past her. My 83 year-old Tutu, helpless and panicked. They were rude to my sweet Tutu. My Tutu. When I heard this part of the story I boiled, fumed and wanted to burst. But then I got to thinking about all the times I had been, um, less than polite, to drivers I thought sucked. Maybe they were having car issues. Worse yet, maybe they were someone’s Tutu. How could I hold others to a standard that I myself didn’t meet?
Since then, I have tried my best to be a patient driver. Admittedly, my gut reaction often gets the better of me, but I try to remind myself that the driver is somebody’s someone. There are always circumstances behind their actions I simply can’t understand. It takes conditioning, but I’m getting better at it. It really has been a learning point.
Imagining your grandmother, or mother, in any situation is a great demonstration of the most basic justification for treating strangers better. When you really think about it, and look another square in the eyes, how can you help but see that we are all one? Why not smile and tell the cashier to have a great day? Why not reach out and help someone you don’t know?