I was driving to a meeting yesterday when I noticed the car. First it came up from behind me and cut into the lane next to me, pulled around me, then did the same to the car in front of me. The man was not driving safely. In fact, when we got to the next intersection, he pulled dangerously close to a turning semi. I thought, ‘that is an accident waiting to happen’. When I pulled up behind him a few blocks later, I smiled because he’d done all of that and we were still in the same place. So there!
I went to my meeting, and several meetings after that, and was wrapping up my day when I got a text from my husband. We were supposed to be heading out of town, but our dog was acting strange. She was lethargic and having a hard time breathing. Our daughter had sent him a text and a video, and he was going to take her in to the vet. We didn’t want to leave town not knowing what was going on. I wanted to get home to see her before she went to the vet. Driving home I realized that I was going faster than I should be, and I was pulling around the slow cars. There it was. The reminder I needed earlier in the day when I was passing judgement on another driver.
We don’t know the whole story.
For all I know that person was headed to the hospital because his wife was having a baby. Or he was headed to his daughter’s graduation. Or he was headed to the nursing home because his mother was passing away. There are any number of explanations for why a person is acting the way they are in any given situation. I’m not defending ever driving unsafely. I am just saying that there may be things going on that we are not aware of.
Too often I pass judgement on the angry man in line in front of me at the grocery store. Too often I assume the worst of the woman yelling at her child at the mall. In most cases, I have no idea what that person is going through. I have no idea if they are sick or lonely or grieving. I have no idea if they just lost their job or their house or their child.
We don’t know the whole story.
Of course it is not appropriate to act rude or unsafe. I am not excusing that behavior. But I am challenging us to consider our own behavior. We choose every day in every moment whether to assume the best of others or to assume the worst.
I was not the safest driver coming home from work yesterday. I was not the most patient person in the drive-through when I was picking up dinner for husband because he had been at the vet for three hours. My fear likely looked like frustration or anger or impatience.
My dog Maggie had surgery last night. She came through it very well. She is home today and resting peacefully. It screwed up my weekend plans. It caused me to miss an important event in my family’s life. And it scared the heck out of me. But she’s okay. I hope the people who interacted with me while it was all happening had more grace for me than I had for that driver earlier in the day.
Give grace. Be kind. Assume the best of others. And understand that you rarely know the whole story.