by Geri Amori
One winter day, the woman in front of me in the airport security line was struggling with coats, equipment and carry-on bags for herself and a toddler. While TSA procedures are trying for any human, they must be exponentially more complicated for people traveling with children whose belongings and little person require more arms to manage than even those of a well-endowed octopus.
This particular day was especially trying for the little fellow whose bag was nearly as large as he. The wait was longer than his miniature patience, and the bag was clearly a burden. As he turned the next of the innumerable corners in the zig-zag line, he hit the pole with his oversized load. The bag fell to the ground and he burst into tears. Big tears. Loud tears. “You pick that up and stop crying right now!” His mom ordered loudly.
Stunned, I bent over to help the child pick up his coat and the handle.
“What are you doing?” she directed angrily at me. “He’s got to learn to be responsible”, not cutting the child any slack for the endurance test he had already survived.
“He’s struggling, you witch” I thought defensively. “I was just trying to help.”
Looking at her face I realized she had a point. I truly didn’t know what had gone on before or the complete situation between her and the child. Perhaps this is a child who regularly throws tantrums. Perhaps I had mis-read her firmness for harshness and judged her for it. Perhaps I had made a mistake by not acknowledging her struggle to keep her own patience together while she traveled with the child who may not even be her own child.
“I’m sorry,” I said then. “I know it’s tough to travel with little ones.”
She softened, and I learned a valuable lesson.
I recognized how often my actions are based upon my own ideas of what is “good” or “compassionate”. There’s a kind of judgment that goes with that….a judgment that I know what’s right for someone else. How many times have I “given someone space” only to learn later they wanted more from me, or urged them to an action to later learn they felt I interfered?
The lesson for me is to try to find out what the other person considers helpful from their point of view when I can. While it is not always possible to ask, it is always possible to consider.
Please comment on this blog and will also help me by gently reminding me when you see my view clouded by projection.