If you’re upset about something at work or if you’re otherwise stressed about your commute or something someone said, this post is for you.
The other day, I was on a Delta flight. It was a small plane (maybe 15 rows in all) flying from Ithaca to Detroit to connect to Chicago. It was a short, smooth flight. The flight attendant (a woman who I guess was in her early 60s) was expertly and quickly serving beverages. It’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, so she was wearing a pink ribbon pin. The female passenger sitting in front of me asked the flight attendant “Are you a survivor?” Her response, delivered with a smile, was “Twice!” The passenger then said “I just lost my sister last month…” and they proceeded to have a quiet, personal conversation. As they conversed, the flight attendant continued prepping cups with ice, etc. but not in a way that was disrespectful. They talked for a few minutes. I saw the flight attendant put her hand on the woman’s shoulder and the passenger’s head leaned towards the flight attendant’s hand. It was a raw, beautiful moment between two strangers who found an immediate connection. Just then, the man sitting behind me, who couldn’t hear the conversation, started complaining to his seatmate about the slow service. I turned around and said “There’s a reason they’re talking, just chill a minute.” His response? “I can only imagine.” Well, I thought, no you can’t. There’s a lesson here; we need to take a step back and evaluate what’s really important in life.
I have family members who are ill and friends who are ill and friends who have lost their spouses. You think they care about anything other than getting better? No, because they’ve been given a glimpse of reality. They know health is the most important thing. They know life is fleeting. You’d think we too would learn to appreciate life more. We see these things and for a moment, or an hour or a day, we do, but sooner or later, we forget.
I’m blessed with a special needs niece who has taught me more about what’s really important in life than most other people. You want to get a better perspective on life? Spend time in a children’s hospital. You’ll *never* look at your work email inbox the same again because, and here’s the point of this post, in the scheme of life, it’s irrelevant. That person at the office who always disagrees with you? Irrelevant. Being upset or annoyed about most anything work related? Irrelevant and a waste of time and energy. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be passionate about what you do, but take it all in stride. Do your job to the fullest, be passionate but don’t sweat the small stuff.
I proudly serve on the board of Make-A-Wish (Mid-Atlantic region) because helping children is a priority of mine. Plus, it grounds me. So, if you know me, you know I don’t take myself too seriously. You know I inject humor in most everything. You know I love my family and doing just about anything with my kids, including sewing patches on my daughter’s Girl Scout uniform or making funny art with breakfast food just to make the kids smile. Some people at work may think I come off aloof sometimes, but really, I’m listening to you complain about something so stupid, I only wish there were some way I could help you see what you’re missing. The truth is, it’s hard. We’re so embroiled with our days. It happens to me too.
The other lesson here is you never know what is going on with someone. If someone is being an idiot at the office, maybe they just had a fight with their spouse or maybe they’re in financial trouble or maybe someone they love is sick. Hey, its life, it happens. So, before you rail on them, pause. Don’t attack, just relax. Don’t complain, just explain. You’ll likely find there is more to that person than you realize. You may even find an opportunity to be there for them, like the above mentioned flight attendant. Sure, they may genuinely be a toxic, negative person. That happens too sometimes. If that’s the case, just walk away and forget it. Let it roll off your back, just like water off a duck. The thing to do with these people is avoid them.
Then, call your spouse and tell her or him you love them. Kiss and hug your kids. Call your parents to say you love them. You never know what tomorrow will bring. Breathe. Enjoy today. Enjoy now.