Stepping into Someone Else’s Shoes

I was driving to the store recently.  I approached a stop light.  It happened to be red.  I slid my car over to the left hand turn lane and waited.  There were several cars in front of me.  I was enjoying some relaxing music as I waited.  As soon as the light turned green the car behind me honked.  I mean the driver honked within a nanosecond.  The first car in line hadn’t even begun to turn.  Now, I have had people honk at me when I got distracted and forgot to move.  I have even experienced someone beeping when I did not move after a couple of seconds.  Yet, this was a first with someone honking before the first car even turned.  I became a little agitated.  I turned to my wife and said, “Unbelievable.  People are in such a hurry.”  I shook my head, drove through the turn lane, and glanced at the driver as the person sped around me.  I saw an elderly woman hunched over the steering wheel zooming past me.  Clearly, it was Mario Andretti’s mom.  I said out loud to my wife, “Oh, may we grow old graciously.”

The following day I woke up with a full day ahead.  I had a lot to do.  I had errands to run.  I had work to do.  And I needed to fit in some exercise.  On top of that we had to run to IKEA (30 minutes away) to pick up something for our house.  I was a little concerned about the time as we had to get to the store and back quickly because my son had some friends coming over to the house.  So, we rushed to the store, found what we needed, but then got sidetracked at IKEA looking through their showroom.  All of sudden we realized we had to hurry.  We jumped in line only to see what seemed like two clerks taking care of a 100 people (ok, slight exaggeration).  It did take a while however to get through the line.  To save time, my wife ran to get the car as I checked out.  We threw everything in the car and sped off.  I had 20 minutes to get home (MapQuest said it would take 30).  I quickly drove.  Fortunately, I didn’t get a ticket.   Yet, every time I pulled up to a stop light or stop sign my mind would bark “Hurry up” to those in front of me.  I found myself wanting to honk the horn at the slightest delay.  Then it hit me.  I’m not generally a cranky person but here I am in a hurry getting annoyed that people are not moving quick enough.  They are probably just enjoying the drive, listening to some relaxing music while I am on a mission.  They might even be glancing at me as I zoomed around them saying “What’s the rush.”

I turned to my wife and said, “It is funny.  I am doing the same thing that I was complaining about yesterday.  You never know what is going on with someone.  They could be late for an appointment.  They might need to get to the doctor for an emergency.  It might not be because a person is grumpy; there just might be a legitimate reason.”  She responded by saying, “It is very hard to get into someone’s shoes.”  Oh, this is so true.

We see life from our perspective.  If someone is in a hurry, we are quick to assign motive, “This person needs to grow old graciously.”  Yet, when we are in a hurry, people need to magically read our minds and pull over so that we can get to our destination.  I think this is why we are so quick to judge others and give grace to ourselves.  We presume to know their motives while assuming others should know ours.  Maybe if we took a few moments and tried to come up with some legitimate reasons for their actions, we would be able to extend grace.  Oh it is hard, but to be honest, it is how we live graciously – not finding more margin but extending the benefit of the doubt when that margin is squeezed.

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