“Be kinder than necessary. Everyone is fighting some kind of battle.” … Unknown
We all walk around thinking that everyone else has it “made in the shade” – that THEIR lives are easier, happier, better in some way than our own. We focus on our problems and the things that are going awry in our lives and we forget that EVERYONE has things that aren’t working out the way that they had planned … and we forget to see the things that are going RIGHT.
I had a lot of time last year to really pay attention to people. I noticed that the number of happy looking people out there is definitely on the decline! Couples frown at each other over dinner in the restaurant (if they look at each other at all), moms and dads yell at their kids for being imperfect and single people stare off into space or stare at the ground as if either of those places might hold the answers to questions that are burying them alive. I have watched and watched and what I have found is that we seem to have a LOT of unhappy people wandering around our supposedly advanced and sophisticated society.
As it became more and obvious to others that I was engaging in a battle with cancer I noticed that this level of challenge startled most people out of their self-contained worlds and re-engaged their connectedness – to me – to their long buried compassionate urges and to the world. It may only have been temporary but by my very presence they remembered to appreciate Life and to put into perspective the miseries which had been consuming them. The fact that I smiled, joked and made eye contact was very disconcerting for many, however, as I have long been this way (smiling that is!), I saw no reason to change simply because some alien visitor had taken up residence in my body. It is interesting to me that people – even the hospital staff whom I saw regularly – assume that if you have cancer … well you are just going to be unhappy, miserable and looking for support and sympathy. Funny thing about that – I found that, on my good days, I handed out as much support as I received.
Sometimes I run into people who seem to wandering around the world oblivious. They don’t seem to understand that anyone else exists outside of themselves or that anyone else has anything of value to contribute. These are the people who would trip over my cane and then look indignant that I, my cane and the world got in the way of their headlong, oblivious rush to nowhere. When I meet these people I do my best to pause and think to myself how unhappy they must be – how they probably have problems about which I have no idea. I look into their eyes – if they look up long enough for me to see them – and in there I see a burning need to control – themselves, their lives and the world around them. I wonder what scary or awful thing happened to them that they now have such a driving need to prevent unwanted “loose ends” from screwing up their day.
I got a huge lesson about this when I was in the hospital last year. I watched one of the nurses whose behaviour was intolerant and inflexible. She was always issuing orders – and at that point in my journey I was NOT in the mood for that; my usual sunny disposition was having enough of a challenge just remaining active. I couldn’t understand why she was behaving so “badly” … until … I found out that one of her children had been killed in a car crash and that she felt responsible for his death. Controlling and issuing orders had become her way of coping: I believe that she felt that if she could just make everyone do things the “right” way that no-one else would need to die and nobody else would need to suffer as she was suffering. Everyone is fighting some kind of battle and this was hers. Did I feel REALLY badly for passing my own little judgments about her behaviours and for not extending kindness to her before her revelation? You bet I did but what a great reminder it was!
“Everyone is fighting some kind of battle”. It might not be obvious on the surface. We might wonder WHY we should extend courtesy to a rude stranger. But knowing that everyone has challenges of which we know NOTHING is enough to motivate me to always do my best to be the best person that I can be and to extend consideration & kindness as a natural part of my trip through this world. My journey has taught me that it is ALWAYS the right time to be “kinder than necessary”: the time is always perfect for performing random acts of kindness.
This week try looking past the facade of the others whom you meet. I know, I know – sometimes they make it really difficult. Remember that everything is not always as it appears on the surface. Examine how YOU hide YOUR pains and fears and then do your best to remember that other people are busy hiding theirs as well. “Be kinder than necessary” to others AND yourself – for “everyone is fighting some kind of battle” – they just may not be letting you know what it is.
Godspeed and Safe Journeying Everyone