My daily commute to and from work is starting to look like a huge, wonderful classroom experience for me. Let me explain.
My travels through life have often been solitary. I generally avoided contact with others, even if it was eye contact in a crowd of strangers. Aside from my kids and Tom, there was nothing I loved more than being completely by myself. Lately, though, I have been trying to really look at people and understand them. I’ve been making eye contact, cracking jokes to get conversations going and generally giving people a chance. As a result, I have been privy to some amazing interactions. You have read about some of them here. These experiences have taught me so much and I think they are actually helping me to become a better person.
Yesterday, for example.
I was standing on the train and a woman moved up from the seats behind me to stand between me and the door. I was gazing out the window at the passing scenery when I noticed her fuzzy-blue-gloved hand come up, flipping the bird to someone in the seats behind me. I looked at her face, wondering if I should be alarmed. She was muttering something under her breath about “stupid bitch,” but her eyes didn’t look scary. I somehow sensed that she was very angry, but behind the anger was fear. I wondered if I should reach out somehow but something inside me said, “Just observe.”
So I did. After a little bit more mumbling and muttering, she turned her head to gaze out the window. Her large brown eyes were sad. From the corner of my eye I caught her fuzzy gloves swiping at her eyes from time to time when she thought no one was looking. I was right. I had no idea what had happened in the seats behind me but she was hurting. When she started using her glove as a kleenex I took it as an opportunity to step in. I rummaged in my purse and found a napkin and offered it to her. She looked at me gratefully and said something about a “cold” she was battling.
A couple of stops later, as I was preparing to leave the train, I almost didn’t hear her quiet, “Thank you.” I looked up and there was no denying the huge tears standing in her eyes, not quite wanting to drop. I touched her blue glove gently. “You’re welcome,” I said, and left.
What I learned from this is something I already knew but needed to be reminded of. Sometimes a person’s anger is really only her hurt being manifested in a way that is easier to deal with. Look behind any angry face and you’ll see eyes of fear and pain.
Someone I love dearly is hiding behind her own shield of anger right now. Unfortunately, it is me she is angry with and she rebuffs my overtures at communication, but I know our immense love for each other will allow us to work it out eventually.