I soon found my blood pressure rising during what was supposed to be a relaxing outdoor lunch with my family in the heart of downtown. Our sidewalk table was situated near the designated crosswalk on a section of the street which was undergoing construction. Across the street was posted a female city employee, frail in stature with an incredibly friendly smile and warm personality. Her job was simply to direct pedestrians toward using the designated crosswalk instead of zig-zagging in and out of traffic or making diagonal crossings which would lead them directly into the taped off construction area.
The city employee was dedicated to her job, graciously pleasant and flawlessly polite to all pedestrians. I wish I could say the majority of pedestrians she encountered returned the same cordial words and attitudes to her. It was not the case. Time after time, she was met with total dismissal, sharp words and arrogant gestures of indignation and defiance. These pedestrians did not want to be told what to do and had no intention of offering respect for the rules or for the person hired to enforce them. It struck me how such a simple request could be met with such rude resistance. Being a person who has a strong sense of justice, I was experiencing a level of frustration and even anger on behalf of the city employee. These pedestrians no doubt felt like they were showing greater strength by exercising their freedom, but their choice was actually the weaker choice and came with a price. The prominent thought in my head was how much I wanted to thump those pedestrians on the head and make them aware of their rude behavior. Of course the irony of this action is unmistakable.
“Rudeness is a weak man’s imitation of strength.” Eric Hoffner
Far fewer pedestrians, decided to follow the downtown etiquette of using the crosswalk. Those who did offered various responses. Some back tracked in order to correct their mistake and either thanked the city employee or returned her smile. Some never even gave her the chance to offer directions, but looked up to find the large florescent crosswalk sign and followed it. Others took a few moments and engaged her in conversation, exchanged pleasantries and wished her a good day. It struck me how such a polite and honoring response to a simple request stood out as a highly unusual response when it should have been a common reflex in social politeness.
This situation kept me thinking throughout the day of the variety of people who cross my path on any given day. Certain of my own guilt, I am embarrassed and regretful of those times I have been dismissive, curt, stubborn for the sake my own convenience and just plain rude. My mind does not have to search too deeply to be reminded of a my impatient sighs in a slow moving grocery store line, or my not so veiled remarks directed toward people who inconvenience my schedule. Sadly, I have found myself in the same place as the rude pedestrians I witnessed. The difference is that on this day, I had a front row seat to observe first hand the effect these encounters had on a one person’s day, especially when multiplied. With this in mind, I am choosing to be more aware of these intersections with the other members of the human race. Here are a few ideas.
I am choosing to:
- Be more aware of those I pass and offer a warm smile and a genuine greeting.
- Offer a kind word of encouragement to brighten some one’s day in the midst of crossing paths.
- Thank more people for the jobs they do no matter how mundane I might think these jobs are.
- Exercise a polite tone and gracious manner even when I am being inconvenienced or do not agree with the rules.
- Recognize that my place in the human race is no more important than anyone else.
I guess what I am being reminded of is simply the “Golden Rule” principle. Just as you never know who is watching and being impacted by your negative actions and words, you also never know who is watching and being blessed by your honoring words and actions. The smallest kindness can create a lasting impact in one person’s life on any given day, and in the scheme of things, it is the least I can do!
“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” Luke 6:31