The other day I was going to the post office to drop off some packages before heading to the car dealership to meet James. The post office we go to is a tiny one not far from our house, and the only parking for it are a few parallel parking spots on the street out front.
I pulled up and saw there was only one small spot left and started to do my best to maneuver a car that wasn’t ours (we had a rental still at the time) into this small space. (Just so you know, normally I’m a self-proclaimed rock star parallel parker with our little VW Golf… but having a bigger car to handle posed a bit of a challenge and had me a bit anxious.)
Anyway, I started to back in the car and noticed an older man coming out of the post office as quickly as he could staring intently at me, watching my every move. I soon realized as he got closer that his car was the one in front of me.
Oh of course… This guy is running out to make sure I don’t bump into his car while I’m parking… awesome, no pressure.
He finally got to his car and stared at me through my windshield as I made my last move into the parking space.
No worries man, I didn’t hit your car, I thought to myself.
He hopped in his car as quickly as possible, as I jumped out and headed to the pay box to get my parking pass. A moment later, before I could put my credit card in the slot to start the process I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to find the older man smiling at me and waving his parking pass in the air.
“Here!” he said, “Mine is good until 3:15 and I’m leaving… so that gives you 30 minutes of parking! Is that enough?”
Surprised to have him offering me his pass, it took me a moment before saying, “Yes! That’s plenty! Thank you SO much!” with the world’s biggest grin on my face. I thanked him profusely and put the pass in my car as he drove away.
I couldn’t help but shake my head and smile. I had assumed this man came running out and was keeping an eye on me so I wouldn’t hit his car… when in reality he was running out to make sure I didn’t pay for my parking before he could get to his car to give me his pass.
I was a bit disappointed in myself that I had assumed the worst, but I suppose after living in the city for over 7 years and never once having someone offer me their parking pass if they didn’t need it anymore had jaded me a bit to the situation.
I smiled all the way into the post office and had this overwhelming feeling that – The. World. Is. Good… People. Are. Good. all because of this one small gesture.
It got me to thinking about something Tamara Lackey said in her presentation at What If. She mentioned that we always have thoughts running through our brain with every meeting, conversation, and situation. We tell ourselves things we believe to be true, and as a result of these beliefs we may start acting different towards people around us.
For example, I was so worried about parallel parking a car that wasn’t mine that I had convinced myself that the man was staring at me because he didn’t trust me to park my car well, and so I never once smiled at him throughout the process. Instead I avoided eye contact and mumbled under my breath as my chest tightened under the pressure of needing to park my car while he watched. When in reality the whole time he was running out as fast as he could just so he could help me save a little money.
It got me to thinking… What if we assumed people were thinking and doing the best more often, instead of always assuming the worst? What if we gave people the benefit of the doubt? And I’m not just asking this to you – I’m asking myself as well – because clearly I have some things to work on (as seen in the story above).
I’ve noticed this phenomenon Tamara talked about time and time again since arriving home. People get so in their own brain space and caught up in their insecurities that they make negative assumptions constantly throughout conversations with people, which in turn makes us defensive, less trusting, and more closed off. But what if we stopped thinking all these crazy things (that have no merit) and instead chose to be open and listen to others without jumping to conclusions that are not true? What would the world look like if we did that?
What if we chose to believe the best in others and they in turn did the same for us? What if we started today?