My cousin was recently on an international flight. A man was sitting in her booked aisle seat and was grumpy and rude when the airhostess asked him to move. After landing the following morning, he asked to borrow a fellow passenger’s cellphone to make a call. His mother was ill and he didn’t know if she had made it through the night. The lesson: people are fighting battles that cannot always be seen. Be kind.
One of the advantages of having a physical disability (besides good parking!) is that it is easier for others to recognize your challenges. Often assumptions are made (they are not always positive) but in general, if I’m smiling, people usually assume that I am a hero (if you’re chuckling now, please watch the late Stella Young’s Tedx talk).
Mental and emotional challenges are not easily recognized. When we are vulnerable, our emotions and self-esteem can be dictated by how others treat us. What if the way some people treat us has nothing to do with us, but rather it is about what they are going through at the time?
- Perhaps you have a colleague who avoids eye contact and never greats you in the morning. She may just be unfriendly, but there is a chance that she suffers from social anxiety.
- A traffic officer who becomes aggressive when you backchat him over a speeding fine may need anger management training. Perhaps the core issue is that he is traumatised after attending a horrific accident scene that morning where speed resulted in the loss of lives.
- A friend who never initiates contact or shows little interest in your life could be self-centred and you may have to decide if you want to invest in the relationship further. Perhaps they are experiencing a personal crisis and are thinking the exact same thing about you!
What if we were just kinder to each other? Greet your colleague with a smile each morning. Be kind to law enforcement officers. Yes, there is a lot of corruption in our country, but most do a thankless, underpaid job that exposes them to danger and trauma each day. Phone your friend and tell them that you miss them. Being kind makes your day so much more meaningful. In the traffic, let a car into your lane even if the driver was trying to cut in. Buy an extra coffee for the car guard when you get your morning caffeine fix. Tweet about a company’s good service instead of always writing complaints.
When you are kind to others, it is easier to be kind to yourself.