We are all learning “abled” and learning disabled at the same time, dumb and smart, on and off. None of us escapes this—it’s just the human drama at work. And yet, some of us get dished up more than our fair share of disabilities in a particularly rough week.
I just spent an hour with Gary, a young man whose grandmother died this week, who has a bi-polar alcoholic mother, a juvie record, a family that’s mad at him, and a girlfriend he just got pregnant—and he’s bi-polar himself. We met when I was standing in line for the train this afternoon, and he jumped in line in front of me. I called him on it, we had words, then he queried if I would talk to him on the train.
Of course I would. That’s when I got the whole, sad story. Listening to him makes my problems sound pretty small. But it also raised for me the effects of feeling like a victim. He’s feeling pretty beat up, so he figured he would make himself feel important by jumping in line. In the big picture, this is small potatoes. He just picked the wrong person to jump in front of—line jumpers are one of my weak spots, it irks the hell out of me.
But isn’t it funny how, when we’re feeling bad, we think it’s an excuse to treat others badly. This minor incident happens everyday, everywhere, over and over. It makes me think of one of my favorite author’s most powerful concepts: don’t bother changing the world; change yourself, because that is changing the world.
When we are bummed out, feeling a little beat up, think of this conversation with Gary. He thought, at first, that he had a right to be rude, because he had a bad week. None of us has such a right. But we’ve got to get that victim mentality out of our heads, and focus on the choices we have in front of us. Gary reminded me of that today. I was, at a minimum, prickly when he jumped in front of me. But then, I took his challenge to talk it out. I’m glad I did. It helps me remember that people are often rude because they’re feeling beat up themselves.
So the next time you’re feeling beat up and get a little edgy with someone else, and they happen to call you on it, take this as an offer to work it through. Gary drifted into my life today, and I hope maybe we helped each other a little bit. Maybe he can see choices instead of bitterness, and I can see someone hurting, rather than being rude for no reason.