Walk a Mile in My Shoes…

…And then judge me.

2013-08-13 Rocky Parenting ImageHave you heard this expression? I am sure you have, it’s been around for a while. I have often heard it, but until earlier this year, did not take time to consider the true message.

2012 was quite a year for my family; as my husband so eloquently put it on New Year’s Eve, it was one of poetic fashion. We literally lived the meaning of “as one life ends, another begins” saying good-bye to six family members. Our sadness turned to joy, however, as we welcomed our daughter, and first child, Ella, in July. Throw in a few intense visits to the hospital and urgent care for the “healthy” ones and you have one emotional year.

Now any one of those events, on their own, would be cause for acting irrationally. Tie them all together and…hello, overload! I share my personal life with a very select few people and sometimes, not even them. I tend to work through issues on my own (most often unsuccessfully), but emotions eventually get the best of me. Congratulations, person who was rude to me, you are now the recipient of my emotional tipping point!

Fast forward to a Sunday grocery trip with Ella. After loading groceries in my car, I leave my cart in between the cars, rather than taking it to the cart corral a few spaces away. I did this for two reasons:

• Call me overly cautious, but I didn’t want to leave my baby unattended in the car (we’ve all seen the news stories)

• Another car pulled into the space diagonal from me and the occupants were having quite an issue getting out of the car – one out of the front so another could get out of the back and then “front seat woman” gets back in
again. As they were going through this, access to the cart corral was blocked.

Finally out of the car, “backseat woman”, shaking her head, took my cart. As she did, two thoughts went through my head “I’d shake my head too if it took that much effort to get out of the car” and “good, she needed a cart and there it was for her…” Wrong. As I pull out of the parking lot, I see her walking into the store cart less. That’s right, she was shaking her head at me for not taking the cart to the corral!

I tell you both of these stories because on my way home from the grocery store, processing the situation, I began thinking of the expression “walk a mile in my shoes and then judge me” and the truth it holds. If “backseat woman” knew I had a baby in the car, would she have been more understanding? Maybe. Maybe not. Call me optimistic, but I like to think she would have.

I understand my cart story may not fully ring true to the meaning of walking a mile in someone’s shoes, but it’s close.

As moms, we are vulnerable to quick judgment and opinions we don’t ask for. We know the woman with the stroller, who just ran us over, has a soon-to-be hungry, screaming child or she just realized there are, in fact, no extra diapers or outfits in the diaper bag! We’ve all been there and offer our sympathetic looks to those deer-in-headlights, functioning-on-three-hours-of-sleep new parents with the screaming baby in the restaurant. As a mom and new parent, I appreciate the courtesy of others who give me a break as I make my way through this new normal.

I know a catastrophic event has not happened to every offensive person, nor is he or she a new or experienced parent. But when I feel the anger rising, I try to give the benefit of the doubt, which I probably do too often (much to the frustration of my husband). I won’t lie; it has caused me heartache at times, but not enough to make me a cynic about society. At the end of the day, making sense of why someone was rude helps me let go of my grudge. Who knows, maybe I judged “backseat woman” too quickly? I, too, am guilty of making snap judgments; we all are.

The point is we don’t know everyone’s story; we don’t know why they acted a certain way or said what they said. Does this give someone the right to be rude or inconsiderate? No, but reconsider your offender before passing judgment. The person who just cut you off, they’re going to hospital to see the loved one who just had a stroke; that person who did not hold the door, just got laid off. The mom who ran into you, well she’s trying to catch her runaway toddler.

In the end, having a better attitude toward a situation or person will help you. Saying “Have a nice day” or giving a smile will help turn someone’s day around. Maybe those kind words or small gesture is just what that person needed in that moment.

Most of us are familiar with the story of a man saving starfish by throwing them back into the ocean as a bystander points out the impossible task of making a difference with the miles of beach and millions of starfish and the man throwing starfish responds, “It made a difference to that one.”

With all the negativity in the world, making a difference to at least one person can have a profound effect. Take the attitude of paying it forward and, as Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

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