So…I just have to share an experience I had the other day. I wasn’t going to, because it exposes something personal about me, but I’ve honestly been thinking about it all week, so I’ve decided to share. For those of you who don’t know, I have a pretty bad temper. It has caused problems in my marriage, in my relationship with my family and a few friends. Since I started doing my online business, I have really been getting into personal development and becoming a better ‘me’ so that I can become a better leader in my business. A couple weeks ago, I decided to take a course called The Landmark Forum. A couple of friends had recommended it to me, and I thought it would be a good course to help me in my business. However, I actually had an experience during the forum that opened my eyes and made me realize why I had been so subconsciously angry all of the time. I learned so much about myself in those three days that I decided to continue taking classes there to, more than anything, help me with my temper.
So the other night, I leave pretty early for my class. My dad instilled in me as a youth that if I am not 10 minutes early, I am late. So I left early because I never know about parking in Seattle and I wanted to make sure that no matter what, I would be on time (meaning 10 minutes early…).
Of course, within 2 miles from the class, I get stuck in traffic. It took 20 minutes to move 1 mile. I already know that the closest parking lot only accepts cash payment and I realize on the way there that I forgot to bring cash, so I will have to look for a parking lot that accepts a credit card–which will take even more time because I’m not super familiar with that part of Seattle.
I finally get to where I can see the building and start driving around to find a parking lot. I have 15 minutes before the class starts (5 minutes before I’m ‘late’). I find a parking lot not too far that has a credit card machine and park my car. I run to the parking meter, put in my stall number and my card, and wait. And wait. And wait. Suddenly I realize the meter is frozen. I’m already riled up because of the traffic and am started to get extremely upset at the parking meter for not working. I start to wonder if I have anything hard enough in my car to bash the stupid machine in. Then I picture the police coming to fine me and asking me why I did what I did, “Oh…ya know…I was bashing in this machine because it wasn’t working, and I was going to be late for my anger management class…”
Yeah…didn’t think that would go over too well.
I take a deep breath and look around, trying to see if there is another parking meter on the other side of the lot. I see a person leaning against his/her car somewhere toward the middle of the lot. I had just learned from a previous class that one of the solutions for a quick temper is to find someone to ask for help to solve your immediate problem. I hate asking for help, but since that person was already standing there, I decided to try out that solution.
I start walking toward the person, realizing as I get closer that it is a woman looking at her phone while smoking a cigarette. Then I get closer and realize she’s got tattoos, piercings, black lipstick, black-dyed hair (pretty much everything black) and I start thinking, “Crap, of course I choose a person that could probably kill me with her eyes!” I hesitate for a second, thinking about turning back, when suddenly the lady notices I’m there and looks up. Well now I have no choice but to say something, or we will just be standing there, awkwardly staring at each other. So I finally say, “Hey, do you know if there is a parking meter on the other end of the lot?” She raises an eyebrow at me, like she is wondering if I am serious or not, and then points to the parking meter I had just come from and says, “You just walked past the parking meter.” I took another deep breath, holding in my frustration, and decided to explain the whole situation, “I know. I just tried to use that parking meter, but it is frozen. The parking lot across the street only accepts cash and I only have a card. I have a class in that building over there (I pointed) that starts in 10 minutes and I am honestly not familiar enough with Seattle to know where to go from here without being late for my class. I’m just trying to figure out what to do. I was hoping there was another parking meter somewhere in this lot.”
She stared at me for a second, and I had a feeling she was going to say something like, “Why are you telling me this? I don’t care and it’s not my problem.” But to my total surprise, she put her cigarette down, pulled her wallet out of her purse and simply said, “I have cash. How much do you need?”
I was like….umm…what??? Did I really just hear that?? This woman knows nothing about me, could probably eat me for lunch, and yet, just like that, is offering to pay for my parking.
I was so taken back that I just stared at her for a second, before she had to ask again, “How much?” I told her it was $10 for the other lot, so she pulled out a $10 and just said, “Here you go. Good luck with your class. Hope it’s a good one.”
I probably said ‘Thank you so much’ like 5 times before I realized I was making the situation awkward and turned to walk toward my car. The lady just pulled her phone back out and continued back to what she was doing before I interrupted her, like nothing had happened.
After I moved my car to the other lot and paid, I just couldn’t help thinking, “Wow. What a beautiful person!” She had no reason to help me and nothing to gain by it. She simply saw a way she could help someone else and did it, no questions asked.
Then there was me, on the other hand, who moments earlier had been fully ready and willing to bash in a stupid, malfunctioning parking meter. I just kept thinking, “Would I have done what she did? If someone came up to me and said what I had said to that lady, would I have helped them?” I honestly don’t know if I would have. I am always so busy, rushing from place to place, with a million things on my mind, that I don’t even notice when other people need help.
I will probably never see that lady again. I did not ask her name and have no idea if I would even recognize her again if I did see her. But her actions have been in my thoughts all week. I have been making a conscious decision to pay attention to my surroundings and be more present in the moment. I have not lost my temper once this week, which previously would have been nothing short of a miracle. Now, looking back, I am sincerely grateful for the 20 minutes of traffic and the frozen parking meter, because without them, I would not have had that experience.
I’m sure that lady didn’t wake up thinking she was going to make a big impact on someone’s life that day, but she did, and I highly doubt she even knows it. I think we all make way more of an impact than we realize, even with total strangers. The world would be a much better place if we all just took a few minutes out of our day to help someone out, just because.
May you all have an awesome week, remembering that you are making an impact on others daily, and do something for someone else just because. I will do my best to do the same!