Over the past 24 hours, in three separate instances, I witnessed what would at first glance be very angry people.
The first moment was a couple yelling at their cab driver for not picking them up in the “right” location across from my apartment. They screamed as if the driver killed their child. The woman spent a minute yelling into the driver’s side window, berating him in the middle of a turnpike.
I first questioned the driver. Why not kick them out of his cab, or just drive away? Then I wondered if he had to take them, because of the need for money or who he answered to, or who held him responsible.
I then wondered about the anger of the couple. What made them so angry that they would respond in such a fashion?
Were they always like this?
The response did not match the error.
This morning, I witnessed another driver yelling at several cars as she struggled getting into a spot on a busy street. She screamed with her baby in the back seat, grabbing the attention of the Sunday morning crowd.
Why was she so upset?
Was this something she did often?
I felt bad for her, then confused. I reflected on the day before, and I wondered if there was a full moon on the horizon.
Then at lunch the third incident occurred. My daughter was hungry, so to keep her tears to a minimum, I rushed to grab her food. My clumsiness led to the knocking of a glass water bottle. Water flew on the floor, and perhaps a drop even hit the lady next to us.
She could have offered an understanding smile, or even a gentle concern. Instead she frowned. I made eye contact to apologize. I smiled. She kept the frown with a touch of judgment. Like an annoyed librarian, she judged and with her eyes, condemned.
I started to wonder why she couldn’t smile. What was occurring in her life that made her so angry. Like the three angry characters that walked into my life over the past 24 hours, there was hostility and frustration.
I reflected on their lives, their frown.
It occured to me that they needed love. I did not know the story of their lives, or even the challenges of their day. I avoided judgement and offered a silent prayer, born in the compassion of the moment.
As lunch continued, my daughter who was now well-fed, offered a smile to the lady across the way. The frown was finally tuned upside down.
My daughter reminded me that while we can never know the plight of another, we can offer a smile without judgement. Maybe, just maybe, that smile can bring a little joy into a person’s day, reminding them of better days, or giving hope in what may soon arrive.