Grief affects everyone differently, especially after a huge loss. The only thing that our grief has in common is that it can sometimes be invisible. You never know what a person is going through, even if they seem calm and composed on the outside. While they might be going through a terrible time, groceries still need to be purchased, errands still need to get done, and sometimes we have to go back to work earlier than we would like. But unless we tell people, they might never know how much our hearts are hurting on the inside. One event made this man realize a very important lesson.
It was Friday, February 19, 1999. I was sitting in my car dazed, confused and very much in turmoil, because I had just buried my beloved two-year-old son, Jarod Charles, 15 minutes ago.
I had left in my car to get away and was completely numb to all around me. As I sat at the stop sign, I was so completely unaware that I started to proceed out of turn. The fellow across from me honked madly, gave me the “finger” and mouthed a few obscenities that I did not fail to miss.
I sat there so completely stunned and then I became so filled with spontaneous anger that I was shaking. I thought to myself, what a low life scum bag jerk to “flip me off” after I just buried my son. I peeled away and was simmering on the point of boil.
I drove back to the graveyard, have giving it enough time for the rest of the mourners to be gone, to have private time with my son. As I sat there, I became more upset that that man’s single act was crowding my mind when I just wanted to weep and talk to my little boy before my flight that night.
As I thought, I came to realize something that made me fill with shame instantly. WHO AM I TO BE ANGRY AT THAT MAN?? HOW WAS HE SUPPOSE TO KNOW?? In fact, I asked myself if I could still count on both hands or if it was time to start on my toes, how many times I had done that exact thing.
Then came the reality of it. And here is my point. It is about random acts of kindness, not random acts of unaware cruelty.
Like I said, how was he to know I had just buried my baby? But the sad thing is, how I am to know that the kid I cursed, a punk, about 2 months ago for nearly sideswiping me wasn’t on the brink of suicide and my gesture pushed him to the edge?
Or how about that little old man that I cursed until I even had to blush because he was not paying attention and missed the whole red light?? Or how about that lady that took MY PARKING spot at the mall?? How am I to know that the little old man wasn’t deep in memory of a loved one past….or how about the lady simply just didn’t see my blinker because she was worrying about getting her shopping done to get home to take care of her kids???
Ok, maybe I’m being overly dramatic, but really, its true…we know no one until we’ve walked in their shoes.
So please, the next time you feel anger, frustration, etc towards a stranger….think before you act. It’s the one thing I like about life…it’s ok to be a hypocrite…one merely learns from their mistakes…or better said, past actions.
It was a difficult lesson to learn, and one that he hopes others might learn without having to go through a traumatic experience first. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is hard – especially if they are taking a long time at the check-out counter – but in the end, what’s a little extra compassion going to cost you? Nothing. And it might mean everything to the person who isn’t paying attention at a stoplight or dropping spare change onto the floor at the supermarket.