Some of the things we do don't serve us...and we might be better off burying them & learning new behaviors!
The other day I was on the metro at about 10am (this is after the work rush…about the time the stragglers & riff-raff–myself included–drag themselves out of bed to see what kind of trouble they can get in that day). During my commute, I was approached by a woman who was a bit scary looking.
Scary is a strong word here…she was actually just very different from me. Long dreadlocks, backwards hat, & loose-fitting hip-hoppy kind of clothes. And in reality, she wasn’t actually approaching me…she was just leaning over me to read the metro map on the wall of the train.
Even so, I half-instinctively zipped up my purse (which had my wallet & ipod right on top) as I didn’t want to be stupid about leaving those things just hanging out in plain view. I’ve been with friends who were pick-pocketed and it is no fun…so I thought I was just protecting my stuff to avoid a similar situation.
As the woman backed away and sat down, I realized I had made a snap judgement that was totally unfair to her. I didn’t know anything about her and assuming she was “scary” or might take something from my purse just because she didn’t look like me was not a fact I was not particularly proud of.
I thought back to an exercise I’d done as part of a leadership retreat called “Bury the Weapon.” The exercise was based on the Native American tradition of Tribal Chiefs burying their weapons when they came together for peace talks. In our version of the exercise, we had to list behaviors we used as weapons and talk about how burying them might make us more successful.
I thought back and remembered that judging others was one of the weapons I buried. Although I had apparently felt it necessary to dig it up for this metro ride.
A bit disgusted with myself, I stood up to exit the train at my stop and realized this woman was right behind me. We both walked up the escalator and headed in the same direction. This continued until I stopped to pick up a penny I spotted under one of the planters on the sidewalk (there is literally nowhere I won’t look or go for a stray penny). Right as I leaned over to pick up the penny I heard a voice behind me, “You go girl! If I would have seen it I would have picked it up first!”
It was the woman from the train!
She went on to tell me how much she loved pennies and that she always went out of her way to pick them up. She was also headed to the courthouse (I had jury duty, she had to pay a parking ticket) and we ended up walking and talking about our best penny finds all the way to the front door.
She was actually quite lovely and not at all what I might have imagined if I had stuck with my snap/WRONG judgement. We even got a good laugh inside when I found 11 cents in the security screening area and she said, “Damn, you are good!”
The whole interaction was a reminder that we have a choice in how we view those we encounter…even if it’s just for a short time. Are they obstacles in getting to our final destination more quickly or do we see them as more than that. Gifts. Teachers. Fellow human beings just trying to get to their destinations too!
When all was said and done, this woman walked away laughing and hopefully had a better day after our interaction. I know I did…and I was nicely reminded why it was I buried the weapon of judgement in the first place!
And all because we bonded over pennies. Now tell me THAT wasn’t worth more than a cent!