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Why is everyone so angry? I've thought this so much these past few weeks. Every time I turn on the news or any tv show for that matter, I see anger and blame and rage. I see it on the road, in my short five mile commute to work. I read about it online. Last week, I experienced it first hand.
I'd been away for six days and I was on my way to pick up Bella, my dog, from the kennel. I was so excited to bring her home! On my drive there, the kennel is only about three miles away from home, I called a friend. It was a quick conversation. We were discussing upcoming plans and catching up on the last few days.
During the drive, I noticed that a white SUV behind me was way too close. I tapped on my breaks. She moved back for a moment and then she was immediately back on my tail. This time I stepped on the brakes for a bit longer. Didn't work. She remained way too close, in my opinion, so I kept a close eye on her.
The final mile to the kennel is where this occurred. This final mile occurs on side roads where the speed limit is between 25-30 mph. As I get closer to the kennel, I realize that she's probably going to the same place I am, "Awkward!" I think. I park at the kennel, end the conversation with my friend, and gather my things together to get Bella.
Suddenly, I hear a knock on my window. It's the driver from the other car. Stunned, I open the door and immediately hear yelling. The driver who had been driving on my tail for the past mile is yelling at me. The first thing I hear is this, "You had no idea I was behind you!"
I shook my head and said, "No, ma'am. I saw you. You were driving too close to me."
She continued to yell over me, "You were on your phone and you had no idea I was there. I'm in a hurry..."
I know the yelling continued, but I don't remember the words. I admit I didn't stand there quietly, but I didn't yell. After a few more minutes, I calmly replied, "Ma'am, I have nothing more to say. I am not going to argue with you. Please do not speak to me like that."
She continued yelling and I started to walk away.
Why was she so angry? I've been behind drivers that aggravate me before, but I would never knock on their car window and yell at them! Where did all of that anger come from? It couldn't be from the one mile when I was driving slower than she'd like me to drive.
This experience got me thinking: What does anger and blame accomplish? Truly...nothing. It does nothing, except exacerbate a bad situation! I think it also separates us from those making us angry. When we yell or point fingers or accuse, it's them! As we condemn and denounce others who err, we make ourselves feel better than, bigger than and we separate ourselves. By separating, that means that we are good. They are bad. (I say "we" because sometimes I do this too.)
LIFE isn't like that! We all make bad choices at times. Choices that hurt others. Choices that are wrong. Choices that are selfish. Each of us does this and we all do it everyday. If we are condemned, how will we learn? How can we learn? Learning, the best learning, happens in safe environments. It seems as if nowhere is safe anymore.
We are quick to shame each other instead of considering empathy. Last week at the conference many teachers spent time in the exhibition hall. It's a glorious place where publishers and authors share books...often for free. Do some teachers appear greedy and pushy? Yup. Did I? I hope not, but maybe. I read some social media posts during and after the conference that complained about teachers. One blog post condemned all teachers in that hall. It even said these words, "Shame on you." I have to say that these words stung, for a while. Why must we shame each other? Isn't this a perfect opportunity to teach people the hows and whys of this experience?
I got angry when I read about what happened to Jacqueline Woodson as she won the National Book Award for Brown Girl Dreaming. Last week she responded, without any anger. She took this opportunity to be thoughtful and she used it to teach. I listened. I'm so grateful for Jacqueline Woodson's calm response in the midst of all of this anger and blame.
When we talk, real learning can occur. We need to be able to disagree without branding each other as good vs. bad or right vs. wrong. We will never learn. I wonder, if that woman had mentioned to me that she was frustrated because she was running late, I probably (hopefully) would have apologized. Instead she yelled, and I think of her as unreasonable and mean. No one learned.
The next time I'm in a situation where anger is a choice, I'd like to think that I can take a beat and think before I respond...think about what story that other person is carrying with them. Ask questions. Discuss. LISTEN. Be kind. Remember these words from Plato...