“Life is ten percent what happens to you
and ninety percent how you respond to it.”
– Lou Holtz
Do you remember my Facebook post about being kind to people throughout the holidays? How I said that I would not let someone get under my skin if they stole the parking space? Do you believe our character is defined in these moments? While I was out shopping with my daughter on Black Friday that very thing happened! So soon after I set forth the challenge the other day to be a gracious person during this holiday season I was tested.
We were looking for a parking space close to a store that we needed to go into on The Ohio State University campus. Finding a parking space on any college campus is tricky and it was no exception on this day. There was one tiny parking lot and a few meters provided for the store we were going into, the coffee shop, and a few restaurants. Everything was full. As we were looping back around the second time there was a spot opening up. One magical spot less than a block away from our destination. We were positioned perfectly to take it, sitting at a stop sign looking directly at the spot. As soon as the person left we could pull right in. So we waited allowing a couple of cars to pass by us – not believing our luck.
Just as the gentleman was backing out of the space, a group of three come walking down the street – a woman in expensive sunglasses and heels with two dapper looking gentleman. I notice them look at me waiting for the spot and then stopping and looking at the meter, pretending they don’t see me waiting. As soon as the car pulls out and I go to pull into the space the woman walks into the space, standing in my way, purposely turning her back to me as if she doesn’t see me!
Can you imagine?!
I could not believe the audacity of these people! They had sent one of the gentleman back up the street to get their black Volvo SUV from the spot where it was parked illegally. While the other two were standing there protecting the spot from me, the person who had been waiting patiently for it in the first place.
Boy was I incensed! I threw up my arms at the couple in true New Yorker style. “What the heck???!”, I said as I was trying to maneuver into the spot. The woman never looked at me directly. She briefly and condescendingly gazed over her shoulder as if she was surprised I was sitting in my car and stood her ground. The man laughed and shrugged his shoulders as he stepped into the spot to join the woman to make sure I couldn’t pull in. I guess I was supposed to be polite and laugh as if this was ok.
I said “This isn’t funny!”, as I pulled away to go look for another spot.
As my daughter and I walked the five blocks to the store from our legal parking space, I was going on and on about these people and how unbelievable it was that they would do such a thing. We were flabbergasted. I schemed revenge suggesting that I write in the dirt on the back of their truck with my finger, “RUDE” or “TAKERS”. I noticed they had out of town plates and thought evilly to myself, they will have to drive around with it on there until they can find a carwash, haha.
My daughter said you have your chance mom, no one is around as we walked by. Then something hit me….
This was one of those moments in life where I had a choice to make – would I respond or react? Who did I want to be in this moment? What was getting my goat about this situation? I mean it had happened before and will happen again – someone will take the parking spot that I am waiting for on another day in the future.The only thing I have control over is my reaction – oh, and my car horn. 🙂
Still wishing I had pulled up real close and laid on the horn…I stopped and did nothing but walk into the store with my daughter.
I told her, “I don’t want to set a bad example for you.” She was laughing pretty hard at the whole fiasco and my dreams of getting these people back.
Later on after we had done some shopping, and I had calmed down a bit, putting my Italian temper in it’s place, I thought long and hard about what was behind my madness in the moment. I realized that I was offended and it was my pride that was hurt. Yep my pride, injured by people I didn’t even know or would ever see again.
Pride, that ugly, deadly sin, that lurks beneath so many bad decisions in life. Pride that would cause me to feel offended. Pride that says, “Can you believe someone would do that to you? YOU?” Pride that wants me to yell, scream, and really let those people have it. Pride that would have left me feeling ashamed later had I allowed myself the pleasure of acting out in the moment. Pride that would have set a bad example for my daughter who is old enough to know better at almost 19.
Yeah it would have been a good story to tell later, over and over at parties. I really showed these people after they took my parking space!
But the story dies here.
You know why? Because I did the right thing and they did the wrong thing. Yes that sounds judgmental and I try not to judge, but here is the truth. Sometimes there is objective truth to a situation. They were taking what they knew belonged to someone else because they wanted it. They were stepping shamelessly on someone else to get what they wanted. The woman was acting like she did not see me even though it was clear she saw me which translates into a lie or great acting. The man took a bullying stance when he stepped into the space laughing at their boldness. Body language is 90% of communication.
This is common place in our culture today. People who take what they want without any consideration for those around them. It seems to be a norm that is somehow acceptable nowadays. Manners have gone to the wayside. Narcissism rules. Have you ever heard any of these statements?…
“You have to take what you want, go after it, or someone else will.”
“Don’t worry about that other guy, go for it, – you deserve it.”
“You have worked hard for it – go ahead and take advantage of the situation.”
“Have you asked yourself, what’s in it for me?”
“If someone has to get hurt in the process, well that’s too bad, I am going for what is best for me.”
Choosing to be different may mean it takes longer to get that parking spot, job title, or recognition. Choosing to be different will define who you become in the future. You can choose to be the one who turns the other cheek. You will be able to sleep at night. You can then be proud of the person you are choosing to be.
Because each of those decisions – that are the right decision – soon become habit. Habit creates our character. Character is who we are when no one is looking. Character is what makes the difference in the example that we set for our children, colleagues, and friends. Character will always win. Because life is not about getting what we want all the time, it is about becoming who we were intended to be. Character is putting others first before ourselves.
Character shows up when you have to make the difficult choices in life. If life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond, we will define our lives by what we choose to do in any given moment. Stressful moments especially give us a chance to make the choices that will create our character – because those are the times when it may appear easier to take the path of least resistance. Instead we can choose to be people of character who care about others and make the difficult choices that will make our children proud to call us their parents.