A couple weeks ago, I visited the elementary school I used to work at and was greeted by a brand-new entrance with two locked doors – one going into the office, and one going straight into the school. I stood by the school door waiting for the ‘click’ to unlock it. Nothing. I walked to the office door and waited. Nothing. I walked back and forth between these two locked doors a couple times trying to figure out which one would let me in. I could see the secretary through the glass. I knew that one of the doors was supposed to click open, but I can’t hear that. I looked at the secretary through the glass window, hoping for some assistance. She looked at me and rolled her eyes at me. She should have known that I can’t hear well, since we worked in the same building for two years. But she rolled her eyes at me. And I could see that. And you know what? It hurt. Not the deep kind of sting that brings tears to my eyes but a confused “don’t you know I can’t hear? do you not care about me because I don’t work at this school anymore?” kind of hurt. When I finally walked in, I motioned to her through the glass window that I was unable to hear the door open. She shot me a quick smile and then turned her attention back to her desk.
It is incidences like this that make me realize the other person doesn’t understand why I am having a hard time finding the door. She probably thinks I’m stupid. She probably thinks I’m annoying because she had to buzz the door several times. It made me realize that a lot of people get annoyed or upset at others because they think the other people are incompetent or stupid. They don’t stop to think that perhaps the other person is having a bad day, is bad with directions, has an unseen disability, or a multitude of other things going on. I’m guilty of having this ignorance toward strangers. I’m sure you are, as well.
What we need to do is remember that the other person is human, and needs understanding and kindness as much as you do when you are frustrated or having a bad day. We need to remember that we know little about the strangers we encounter and should not judge based on a few actions or words. We need to remember that what we say or do has a big impact.
One small act of kindness – such as a smile – can go a long way,
just like a harsh word or expression can make a person’s day worse.
“Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness, and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.” -Og Mandino