The choices we make on a daily basis affect not only ourselves and our families, but others as well. Gurus of all types have said that our actions, words, and choices are like pebbles in a lake – the ripples of our choices last a long time and affect others in ways we don’t always anticipate or expect.
Case in point: Brendan & I went to the co-op on Friday, as is our normal late-Friday-morning excursion. We meet at a co-housing set-up and in deference to the residents there, we try to abide by their parking rules – handicapped spaces are left open for those who need it, etc.
As we were walking up to the place where we pick up our orders, a van was parked next to the handicapped spot. A woman who I didn’t know walked ahead of us and started *screaming* and *pounding* on the door and window of the van. I have never seen such ridiculous behaviour in all my years as an adult, and yet there she stood literally screaming, “YOU CAN’T PARK HERE! YOU CAN’T PARK HERE!”
Brendan and I scurried past and I thought two things: 1) we’ll be talking about this situation in the car (teachable moments!) and 2) wow! talk about rude! The behaviour surprised me, but I honestly thought, “Maybe the driver has a good reason to park there…” as we walked past.
We stood in line and The Screamer was in front of us, but then an interesting situation arose when the woman who was verbally assaulted by The Screamer came in and asked her directly, “Did you scream at me?”
The Screamer said, “Yes, I did. You can’t park there. You have to park where the rest of us park!” The other woman proceeded to explain that she had gotten permission to park in that very spot while her husband was getting their products from the co-op because her babies were sleeping in the car. The Screamer then proceeded to say, “There ARE no rules like that!” when one of the co-op organizers came over to say, “Yes, we permit that, when direct permission is sought and there are infants involved.” The Screamer sputtered a bit and then stalked out with her products.
Is it possible that The Screamer was having a bad day? Yup, and that’s generally the assumption I make in situations like this. But it struck me as we were leaving (and The Screamer nearly broadsided me and then weaved in and out of traffic like a maniac) that in spite of bad days, we’re still accountable for our choices. Could The Screamer have asked the woman in the van why she was parked there? Certainly. Could she have assumed the best of the situation, instead of appointing herself as judge, jury, and executioner in a situation she knew nothing about? She could have. She chose not to, though. And that was a shame. She is old enough to “know better” (isn’t that what we tell our kids?), and she truly made herself look foolish as huffed, puffed, and was abrupt with everyone around her.
I hope The Screamer doesn’t live her life like that daily – if she does, she must be one unhappy individual. And I hope the lady who was screamed at didn’t have her sleeping babies woken up by the racket or let it ruin the rest of her day. Me? I had some interesting conversations and lesson-teaching with my 8 year-old afterward, but I realized that instead of what we witnessed, I’d prefer that my ripples be ones of kindness that stretch out far beyond my intention or understanding.
That’s the kind of legacy I want to leave behind.