I should be telling you about how we've been celebrating and enjoying this Advent season, but that will have to wait.
First let me tell you that I live in a city where only about 7% of drivers make a 100% stop at stop signs (based on my own extensive research and eagle-eyed observations), absolutely no one (except me) yields properly, and people blare their horns at you if you drive 10 mph OVER the speed limit...in the slow lane.
Like most drivers, I am pretty critical of other drivers. I won't say that I suffer from road rage, but I do get upset when people make dumb choices (like texting -- or whatever -- while driving), thus putting all of our lives in danger. But overall I try to be patient on the road, especially since the timeline I operate on is almost entirely self-imposed.
But today something happened that showed me we need to generally chill out (by the end of this post, you will be tired of the phrase "chill out"). Drive defensively, but don't assume the worst about someone just because they don't drive (or talk, or raise their children, etc.) exactly the way you do. Since we don't know the hearts/minds/situations of others, let's stop getting so worked up when someone offends us. Chill out.
Let me set the stage...
Today Lorelei attended a gymnastics class for the second time (the first time was last Wednesday) in a part of town I don't know very well. Today we had to go to the grocery store after class, and I did not know how to get from gymnastics to the grocery store without my GPS. After loading Lorelei and Ford into the car and while I was still in my parking spot, I typed the grocery store into my phone's Google Map app, but the app wasn't working (the "thinking circle" just kept spinning and spinning). I remembered that I had the same problem last week, and realized that the building must be blocking the cell phone signal (the parking lot is behind the building), so I left the parking lot and stopped before turning onto the street, hoping my phone would find a signal so that I would know whether I should turn left or right out of the parking lot. Viola! Cell phone signal!
I typed in the address, Google Maps told me to turn left onto the street, and I looked up from my phone so that I could start our journey. There was a woman with a baby stroller to my right, stopped on the sidewalk and giving me the death glare of all death glares. My car (minivan, actually) was pulled too far forward for her to continue on the sidewalk, and I obviously hadn't seen her until I looked up and started looking both ways. (I was blocking the sidewalk, not due to carelessness, but because this particular street allows street parking, and it is impossible to see if the coast is clear unless you pull waaaaaaaay forward.) I felt bad that I was blocking the sidewalk, so I motioned for her to "go ahead," even though she would be forced to steer around the front of my car. At first she gave me her best "you're an idiot" look for suggesting she go first, but in the end she took me up on my offer. I rolled down my window to apologize, saying, "I'm so sorry, I'm not familiar with this part of town." Her response was something snippy to the tune of, "You just can't resist playing with your iPhone."
Had the situation been reversed, I too probably would have been annoyed and assumed that the driver was Facebooking/Instagramming/Tweeting before leaving the parking lot and pulling out into traffic. Because we just can't quit, can we? I too would have stood still, refusing to continue my walk with my baby stroller until the driver in the car blocking the sidewalk was aware that I was actually standing there. No way would I have started to walk in front of the car before making eye contact with the distracted driver, because Heaven knows there was a good chance Distracted Driver would step on the gas before tearing her eyes away from her iPhone screen. Because whatever is on that screen is obviously much more important than driving safely.
I was NOT Facebooking/Instagramming/Tweeting. Yes, I should not have pulled up so far and blocked the sidewalk -- next time I won't. But I honestly didn't know where I was going, and there was honestly not a cell phone signal in the back parking lot. So I HAD to get to the front of the building before typing my destination into the phone's GPS. Once the GPS registered my destination, I lifted my eyes and saw you, dear woman...before my foot even thought about letting my foot off the brake. I did not accidentally almost hit you. I understand that your job is ensure the safety of yourself and the child, but YOU DON'T KNOW ME OR MY SITUATION.
After her snippy comment, I called after her, "Have a great day!" She was ticked off, and, frankly, I'm a little ticked off too (obviously, otherwise this would not be a blog post). But because I could see where the woman was coming from, I was forced to chill out, and realized that I need to chill out a lot more often. Not just while driving, but in many instances. Like when the man in the grocery store shouted at Lorelei to "Watch out!" when she was walking backwards in the aisle and nearly backed into his shopping cart, then rolled his eyes at us. Perhaps one of his own children had been hurt when his guard was down. Or when the woman walking into the library in front of us let go of the door before I could grab it to hold it open, even though I was certain she saw me and my small army of children. Perhaps she suffers from chronic shoulder pain. See? Chill out.
I challenge myself, and you, this Christmas season -- a season that is all about giving and love -- to give others the benefit of the doubt, and to love them in spite of how they may treat you. Let's stop assuming the worst of others (because we don't want them assuming the worst of us), and start extending kindness (because we want kindness extended to us). It's the least we can do, in light of what has already been done for us.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16