Watching parents struggle to keep their young children quiet on a recent plane trip reminded me of how stressful traveling was a few years ago when my kids were really young.
My wife Anne and I would do everything we could to keep our kids from annoying other passengers, but no matter how hard we tried, one would always scream or kick the seat in front of her.
Inevitably, a few passengers would add to our anxiety and embarrassment by displaying disdain and discomfort through withering comments, loud sighs, or accusatory looks. Their message was clear: We were inept or inconsiderate parents.
I couldn’t blame them because our children did make their trip unpleasant. Still, I wished they had been more understanding.
In contrast, I so admired and appreciated the occasional man or woman who would go out of his or her way to ease the tension or lighten the burden with a supportive smile, a kind comment, or an offer to help.
Sometimes we don’t seem aware of the choices we have and our power to make things better or worse.
I once read of a man on a subway with two young children who were being loud and unruly. The man seemed to ignore their behavior, so a fed-up passenger confronted him: “Sir, don’t you see how your children are disturbing everyone? How can you be so thoughtless?”
The man sobbed, “I’m so sorry. Their mom just died and I’ve been thinking of how we will live without her.” In an instant, the critic’s self-righteousness turned to self-condemnation.
Why is it that so many of us have to be hit over the head before we turn on our caring and empathy buttons?
The next time you have the choice between being right and being kind, choose kindness.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
If you enjoyed reading this article, you will also want to read Finding God in the Park.
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