I know you. You own the road. Your schedule, your time, your space, and your coffee are the only things that matter. If the rest of us knew better, we’d understand that and just move over to the next lane, block traffic for you so you can make that turn, not get offended if you were pushing us forward in line, hold every door open for you, and bend over backwards (spilling our own coffees) to make sure things move smoothly for you—or at the very least just get out of your way.
You know me. I’m the person who held the door open for you this morning. You breezed right through as if you knew I was supposed to do just that, without even a hint of appreciation or even acknowledgment. That is, until I looked right at you and said, “You’re welcome!” It may have been obvious that I didn’t mean it.
I’ve encountered you before. Many times, in fact. It used to make me wonder how bad your parents were.
My own father would have taken his military rifle and shot me if I ever let the door slam in someone’s face, cut someone off in traffic or in line, did not help the stranger that dropped her purse, or—GOD FORBID—did not show appreciation for a courtesy shown to me. At the very least, he would have used his best drill instructor voice for a very public shaming to let everyone around know that I was taught better than that, that I knew better than that.
The irony of my rudeness in return is not lost on me. I have stooped to that same level of un-charitableness that I denigrated you for. You didn’t make me do that; you may have instigated an unpleasant emotion in me, but my reaction is my own responsibility. Whether I am rude first or second, I am still being rude. Period. And that makes me wrong.
Still, it would frustrate and amaze me that people can be so rude. To not stop to help someone in any kind of distress, or to take that extra moment or action to make something just a little bit easier for another person, or show basic kindness to or appreciation for another. Even to say that tiny “thank you” to the person who is standing unprotected in the rain a few seconds longer to hold the door open for you. It happens so often that I began to wonder, why do I bother?
–Wait. WHY DO I BOTHER?
I’m not afraid of my father getting angry with—or even ‘disappointed’ in me if I let the door slam in your face (besides, he can’t see me most of the time).
Am I expecting payment from you? Is that “thank you” a reward I need for doing something nice? Do I do nice things because I expect to be rewarded? No. If I do something nice it’s because I want to and just because it makes me feel good. So then, technically, if I already got a good feeling out of it AND you said “thank you” I would essentially be being rewarded twice for one good deed.
This means, also technically, I’m not holding the door for you; I’m doing something that makes me feel good. I’m doing something for myself, which means that I am wrong to expect anything from you.
There’s another side to this, too. I have no control over how other people act. The only person I can control is myself. How I act is my own choice. Thatis a privilege we all have, and I have to respect that you have that same privilege—even if I do not agree with your choices. And, again, it is not my place to agree or disagree.
(These self-talks are fun!)
Okay, okay. I get it.
I will not let what I assume to be your lack of appreciation bother me anymore. How you act, live, be, do has nothing to do with me and it only affects me if I allow it to. I will spend more time concerned with my own gratitude and make an effort to put my focus only on what I appreciate. And because it still feels good, I will hold the door open for you, help you pick up what you’ve dropped, let you know if you left something behind, and give you back the extra money you mistakenly gave me when counting my change back to me—I can’t make any promises about pulling over into the other lane, but I will try to be a little less aggressive. Or I’ll at least try to swear at you less. (Shut up, Yoda!)
By the way,
(I mean it this time.)