I live in an area that is filled with Achievers and the families they are raising. This area buzzes with activity. The atmosphere is saturated with this message: “We are busy people. We all need to get somewhere and we need it to happen with as little mess as possible.” Stress levels are high. Our children watch how we handle it. They learn.
Of late, I’ve noticed an up-tick in head shaking. You know the kind I mean: when you take too long at the stop sign, letting pedestrians pass in the cross walk, and the driver behind you honks with frustration and shakes their head in disgust.
Yesterday, a teen driver miscalculated his position on a small road in our area. I was in his way. As he drove over a stretch of lawn to force his way past me, he glared and shook his head at me [barely missing a mail box]. Monkey see, monkey do. This young driver has witnessed, as I have, the difficulty of managing delayed satisfaction, the head shake, the quick judgement of idiocy from others while making one’s way down the road.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve given my fair share of exasperated head shakes meant to wake the other person up to their failure, as viewed by me, from my perspective. Lately, I’ve done it more often that I care to admit.
Today, I am visiting another area. This is dance competition season and I occasionally land in a coffee shop waiting to pick my daughter up from a performance. New to the area, I drove slower than usual while trying to find my way. I may even have accidentally cut someone off when the road narrowed to one lane before I was aware it was happening. Not one head shake. Not one. When I waved to let the other driver know I knew of my mistake and was taking responsibility, she smiled, nodded her head and drove on.
A head nod. All was well. This gentle, accepting behavior has continued through my morning at the coffee shop. It’s possible I’ve landed in a happy respectful hamlet of achievers who do not need to judge, demean or alert me to my failures. I may have landed in a hamlet of folk who have good impulse control and an ability to tolerate delayed gratification.
Either way, that head nod felt so gentle, so accepting, I found myself reviewing the power of this small action. Allowing for the other person’s humanity, assuming good intention, is loving on life’s terms. Sometimes the best way to show up for another is to simply choosing a nod over a shake.