“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama
I had an aha moment while sitting in my car in the middle of a parking garage.
We’ve had an entire month of colds circulating in the house. My son catches the cold at school, then passes it along to my daughter, who then passes it along to me.
I called my daughter’s pediatrician to get the appropriate dosage of Tylenol to give to her for a mild fever. Based on my daughter’s symptoms, the nurse recommended that I schedule an in-office appointment to make sure my daughter’s condition was nothing serious.
Really? My maternal instinct was telling me that it was just a bad cold, but the nurse’s suggestion allowed just enough fear to creep into my mind that I felt obligated to get my daughter checked out.
The only appointment they had available the next day was at 5:00 pm.
The parking situation at the doctor’s office is irritating, to say the least. You have to drive up a crowded, tight parking garage for many floors before you find a spot, then walk to an elevator that you must take before you walk across a bridge and take a second elevator to the office. With two kids and a diaper bag in tow, I wouldn’t describe it as fun.
I left the appointment irritated that I didn’t follow my instincts. As I suspected, it was just a bad cold. The appointment was a waste of time.
I wanted to be home and in bed, as I was starting to feel under the weather myself.
I drove down the parking garage and waited to pay my $3.00 parking fee. There was one car in front of me.
It became clear after a minute of waiting that the woman in front of me wasn’t prepared to pay a fee.
She kept scraping together a few coins at a time and handing them to the parking attendant over and over again. The attendant kept glancing at me, assessing my level of annoyance. It seriously felt like she was paying in pennies.
At first, I reacted with ego. Is this woman serious right now? It’s already 6:10 pm. The kids need dinner and bed asap. Now this? Why?!?!
But as the minutes ticked by, and the cars backed up behind me, I watched the woman frantically scraping together coins and felt something else: compassion.
It was obvious that she didn’t want to waste my time any more than I wanted my time wasted.
I should help her pay the fee. It’s so obvious to me once I get past my own ego.
I put my car in park, but just as I grab my wallet, she drives off. I pull forward and the parking attendant apologizes for the inconvenience. I say, “No problem,” and I actually mean it.
What if more of us (myself included) switched from the instinctual reflex of, “Why me?” to “What is the other person going through”? What if we focused less on the problem itself, and more on our ability to help solve the problem?
Only by getting out of the way of my own ego was I able to have the power to see a solution, and one that would have made everyone win if I only saw it sooner.
When we come from a place of compassion, not only does the other person benefit, but we benefit ourselves.
Just looking at this woman through a different lens made my bitter animosity towards her, and my life in that moment, melt away.
This moment reminded me that showing compassion doesn’t necessarily have to be a grand gesture. There are small moments that we are faced with every day where we can either choose to see outside of ourselves, or not.
My question to you, the reader, is how would you react in this situation? A) Get annoyed at the woman for inconveniencing you, B) Patiently wait in your car, or C) Whip out your wallet and help.
I had to go through A and B before arriving at C, but I will tell you that C felt vastly different than A.
Option A in any scenario in life has a purpose too. It’s our wake-up call. Bitterness in any moment is knocking on our hearts, begging for us to notice that we need to change our perspective. The real question is, are we willing to open the door, and our hearts, to the solution?