On our way home from the afternoon Christmas Eve service, we found ourselves in need of a few items. The parking lot of the grocery store was packed beyond belief, so I volunteered to be the sacrificial lamb and go inside. As expected, it was a madhouse of buggies and frantic shoppers.
I wound my way through the chaos to the back corner in search of three potatoes. Their supplies were dwindling but I got what I needed then found myself stuck between two carts. On one side was a large man who had assumed an aggressive posture and on the other was a slight, older woman dressed in an ornate sari. She had a look of terror in her eyes and appeared to be pinned against a stack of bagged lettuce.
I was completely befuddled. I had absolutely no idea what could have led to this confrontation or who was in the wrong. I also didn’t know how to diffuse it. I could have turned around and taken the long way out of the produce department, but that’s just not me. Reaching into my Santa sack, I pulled out a deep and loud, “Merry Christmas.”
Angry man broke off his stare long enough to grudgingly repeat my tidings of great joy. He slowly turned his cart and wandered down another aisle. The woman gathered herself and quietly turned the other direction.
“Dude, it’s Christmas Eve!” I wanted to call after him. But I held my tongue.
What’s the matter with people?
We could ask, but we know, don’t we. We see it every day. There’s too much anger, hatred, pettiness, frustration, and mean-spiritedness in the world. There are too many verbal assaults and too few calm airing of grievances. We can lob spiteful words over the digital fence and hide behind anonymity or delete them and assume they are gone for good. It doesn’t help that the men and women who are supposed to be leading us are the worst of the lot. Our political environment has become the primary school playground back in the days when no one cared about bullying. Of course that venom spills over into us regular folk so that even on Christmas Eve we have to get to the bagged lettuce without waiting for someone else to choose.
I can’t change the system, but I can change. So in 2018, I am adopting the following New Year’s Manifesto. Call me simple and Pollyannish, but maybe if I do something different, someone else might too. Regardless, I’ll be a better human to the people in my life.
- I will treat others better than they deserve because throughout my life I have been treated better than I deserve.
- I will close my mouth and consider my response before committing to it – both verbally and online.
- I will respond to people with kindness whenever possible and silence when it is not.
- I will encourage and lift up others rather than tear them down.
- I will be more patient tomorrow than I was yesterday.
- I will give grace even when unmerited and expect nothing in return.
- I will readily forgive because I have been forgiven… whether an apology is offered or not.
- I will give of my time, talent, and resources when I can – even if it is a slight inconvenience to me.
- I will intervene when I see others in need.
- I will smile more.
If I do these things in increasing measure, 2018 will be better for me and the people in my circle. That’s a start. I am even going to try to do these things when driving in Atlanta traffic.
To my friends; hold me accountable – my kids will for sure. If you see me blow it, tell me… and then please remember number 7.
Happy New Year!
(photo attribution: Flickr – Kate Ter Haar)