Monday, July 17, 2017

To the Lady Who Honked at Me at Chick-fil-A

I was in the Chick-fil-A drive-through a few days ago, minding my own business, merging into one of two lanes before ordering our food. I jumped, hearing the person behind me laying on her horn. She threw her hands up in the air, and I was so confused. Is she honking at me? What did I do? Maybe I have a flat tire, and she's trying to get my attention? So she pulls into the lane next to me, and I roll down my window. I ask, "Did you honk at me?" She replies, "Yes, you merged in front of me and the eight cars behind me. It wasn't your turn." I told her I had no idea (I truly didn't) and told her she was welcome to get in front of me. She said in the huffiest tone, "It's too late now." There was nothing left to do but to apologize and awkwardly sit in line next to her while we waited for our food.

I rolled up my window; my face got hot, and my eyes filled with tears. And then the ridiculousness of it all made me cry even more. Here I was at Chick-fil-A, in the heart of the suburbs, upset over a soccer mom honking at me. There are people in this world who don't know when they'll get their next meal, and I'm letting something so silly ruin my day? Get a grip, I tried to tell myself! But I couldn't control it. The tears kept flowing, and Hadley was in the back seat asking me why I was crying.

You know when you're having one of those days. It seems like nothing can go right; everything goes wrong; and as much as you try to laugh it off you just need a do-over? That's where I was. And this suburban mom schooling me just set me over the edge when I was already teetering there anyway.

The next day brought me my do-over and a fresh perspective. I thought about this interaction again, wondering why it'd made me so upset? Why am I always so sensitive? And instead of focusing on that (I'll probably always be sensitive, darnit), I thought about the many times that I have been that lady honking at the car that "butted" in line. How many times have I reacted to someone or something, without all the details, but assuming the worst? And how does that reaction make me feel?

Does honking at the person who pulled out in front of me (which might have been a dangerous move on their part but turned out to be OK) make me feel better? Or does it really just make me a little more rage-y?

Does saying something to the person who jumped in front of me in line make me feel vindicated? Or does it just raise my blood pressure and make me angry? "Who does she think he is? I'm not letting her get away with that," I often think to myself.

Or in the crowded waiting room, when the young man doesn't offer his seat to the elderly lady who walks in, I say under my breath, "Nice manners, buddy."

Or when the cashier is short with me and isn't as friendly as I expect her to be. "Gosh, what is her problem?"

Or when an acquaintance you stop and speak to isn't chatty and seems aloof and uninterested. "Wow, she's not the friendliest."

I'm not saying we need to let everything go. We don't need to allow ourselves to be bulldozed everywhere we go, or ignore people or situations that continually take advantage of us. But maybe sometimes we do? Maybe instead of assuming the worst, we try to assume the best instead?

When someone butts in front of you in line, instead of "Oh she must feel like she's entitled" instead think, "I bet she has no idea she just did that."

When the young man doesn't offer his seat to the elderly lady, instead of scoffing at his manners maybe think, "Gosh, I have no idea what could be going on with him. He looks healthy, but maybe he's not. Maybe he has to sit."

When the cashier is short, remember that she could be stressed, thinking about her sick child at home, or wondering how she's going to pay this month's bills.

When the acquaintance continuously seems aloof and doesn't have a lot to say, maybe she's not rude...maybe she's just shy and has a really hard time with small talk.

We most often know nothing about what's going on in a person's world. Life is hard, even on the best days. And even for those who seem to have it all together on the outside, we have no idea what's going on inside. That their world may be crumbling.

I think if we all could give grace more often we'd be so much happier and healthier. Right? It feels good to me to just let things go. To not let people or situations really affect me or my day. And choosing to see the best in people, rather than the worst, makes me see the world in a brighter light.

So the next time I'm tempted to puff my chest and be on the defense, I'm going to choose to give grace instead. And the next time someone honks at me (and it's bound to happen), I'm going to extend grace to them (and to myself) as well.