The Big Deal About Being Kind to People

I have written probably countless times about my struggles with the unfriendliness of Greater Boston. Sorry if you are sick of it. Skip if you like. But, today a very unfriendly sassy woman taught me a good lesson: even if people seem to be doing really dumb things, generally, it is probably even still a good idea not to be nasty to them.

I was driving to dinner in Cambridge. There are all these squiggly narrow back streets where they start off as two-way and turn into one way. I went a way I haven’t gone before and ended up going the wrong way down a street. I know. Not ideal. But it was a super-tiny street, and I was going about 12 miles an hour, so it wasn’t like there was going to be a head-on collision or something. Anyway, this woman looks at me with the meanest look and says some snappy comment about it being one way. Okay. Point taken. I start to turn around and she continues to stare at me with a “Could you be any more stupid?” look like I have just purposely tried to kill her cat or something. My windows were down and she was super-close and I said, “Sorry, these streets get confusing sometimes.” Which, as any Boston/Cambridge driver knows, is the case. Instead of an understanding nod, or maybe at least just ignoring me, she continues to give me the Look of Death and says, “Well, there are signs,” in a super-sassy, snarky, bitchy way. I’m already embarrassed about the mistake, okay? I wasn’t talking on my cell phone or doing something that distracted me. Clearly the signs are not that obvious. I said, “Well, thanks for being so nice and understanding about it.”

Little did this woman know I was having an already hard day. I am super-emotional. Things are a bit raw, even. And, even though I did feel a bad from such random unkindness and lack of understanding, it was a good little lesson to me to be really nice to people even when I don’t feel like it. Because you don’t know if their mom died that day, or if they are getting divorced, or if they just lost their job. (These things are not happening to me, but you get the point. Maybe they already feel really bad.)  Maybe they just need someone to show a little extra understanding. For whatever reason, it seems always better to be nice to people. It doesn’t take that much but can be the difference between tears, or a more stressful day, or a brighter day, a little more hope about the goodness of humanity.

So, mean woman on Sacramento Street, I will be being extra nice to people just to make sure I don’t make anyone feel like you made me feel today.*

*Lest you think I am over-reacting to her nasty little comments, well, I know I am. But the point was, I was already feeling bad. And she just made it worse for no good reason at all. I know I know. I shouldn’t take it personally. But when you are already feeling a little bad, it is hard not to take it personally. Which is the whole point. We never know what people are going through. Why risk making an already-difficult world more difficult for others if you can help it?

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6 Responses to The Big Deal About Being Kind to People

  1. I am pretty sure I have repressed memories about driving in Boston a decade ago….

    Your story fits into this larger issue I wonder about: why are we so intolerant of people making mistakes when they try new things? Like going to a new restaurant where you don’t understand that the menu is just the chalkboard, or driving down a new street.

  2. Hi Elizabeth,

    I’m sorry a mean, spiteful person crossed your path. What an unpleasant encounter you had. Poor woman must have gotten up on the wrong side of her rock this morning.

    Hang in there!

  3. Lizard Eater says:

    I don’t understand people like that. I truly don’t.

  4. uuMomma says:

    Isn’t that “lived theology,” when you are the action you wish to see in the world? I remember seeing a friend of mine downtown once. She stepped into the road to cross it (we were watching from our car some ways away), and a car honked at her and the guy who nearly hit her started yelling at her. I caught sight of her face: She just smiled wide and waved happily at the driver and moved on. I’m SO not that way, but I remember that moment as one I wished to emulate–when people want to yell at you for making an honest mistake, just pretend they are as scared as you are. (Though obviously not the case of the woman you came across, and I am really sorry you had to encounter her when you were already fragile.)

  5. Jan says:

    I’m so sorry you were having a rough day and that the woman was being so rude. Obviously, she doesn’t know that she’d be a lot happier if she would chill out.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Gosh, thanks everyone for the support. It was just a good lesson. Perhaps I can even be unkind to people when I shouldn’t (ike, say, maybe even people I live with) and it was just such a good lesson about how bad we can make others feel for no good reason.

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