In the simplest terms there are 2 different ways that we can engage with life.
In the space of 15 minutes I recently witnessed both ways in action.
The first way
In a parking lot I was waiting for an oncoming car to pass before turning into a parking space. The driver of the other car began to pull into the space and then stopped as he realized that I was intending to park there. We went through a series of charades that included “oops sorry – you go – no you go” until finally the other driver took the parking space at my insistence. I parked a few spots away. Both of us were smiling.
Fifteen minutes later as I was heading back home, I had a completely different encounter.
The second way
I was in line behind 2 cars at a stop sign waiting to make a left turn onto a busy road. It really wasn’t much of wait until the first car began making its turn. Apparently things were not moving fast enough because at the same time the second car attempted to go around the first car. It seemed like a collision was certain but the first driver swerved to the right avoiding an accident. The driver of the second car carried on. I was left shaking my head and I imagine the other driver was a little bit rattled.
Here’s the thing…
There are two different ways we can go through life. The first way is kind, collaborative and respectful. Sure that parking lot driver was probably not paying attention when he started to pull into that spot. But he caught himself and made a responsible gesture. A different driver might never have paid attention all, or knew I was waiting for the spot and didn’t care, or might have made an unpleasant gesture that we are accustomed to seeing on our roadways. It was of course only a parking space. But I am a big believer in a simple principle:
How you do one thing is how you do most things.
The second way we can go through life is focused on what we want right now, regardless of the impact it might have on others. We can be impatient which often translates into rudeness. Heaven knows we have a serious problem with a lack of civility these days.
I’ll admit I don’t know what was going on for the driver of the second car. I can extend a generous explanation for that behavior – perhaps he/she was in the midst of an emergency. Quite likely though, that driver was simply in a rush to get to the next thing on the to-do list even though that choice had potentially serious consequences.
I get that we can all be driver #2 on any given day.
But is that really how we want to go through life?
The only way we become driver #1 is with conscious awareness and attention to how we show up in the world. It happens when we have our priorities in order, when we keep things in perspective and don’t turn little stuff into big stuff. It happens when we understand that our choices have an impact on the world around us including how we respond to whichever driver crosses our path.
Which way are you going through life?
PS This article was first published in my community blog Life Goes On for the St. Albert Gazette.