See everyone as a baby.
How to be more compassionate.
The Elderly Encounter
As I look up we make eye contact. A smile comes over her face as we exchange glances. She’s an elderly lady that gingerly strolls into the Second Cup coffee shop that I decided to call my office for the next few hours. She sits down and enjoys her tea and muffin while gazing out the window.
Typically I would make small talk as I truly enjoy conversing with strangers however my client will be walking through the doors in 2 minutes and I need to get focused.
I can’t help but think that she must be over 90 years old. I wonder what her story is. Where was she born? What did she do for a living? What milestones has she achieved and what challenges has she overcome? Who was she before she became who she is now? Everyone has a journey and a story that many know nothing about. As a prolific writer and an overall curious person, these are the types of questions that run through my mind whenever I see an elderly person. In a world where people tend to make judgements before ever getting to know each other, I find it’s easy to just see each other as passing non-meaningful characters in our movie. I don’t like that viewpoint. I don’t want to view people as transactional or insignificant. If possible, I want to view them as people who are living their movies. They are the hero of their journey and I am a character in it. If I could be a positively memorable character for that brief moment, then why not?
I find that as I engage and interact with people, seeing them as young children or a baby reframes my perspective. A server at a restaurant could be short or rude to me. A co-worker could be awkward and distant. A man may scream and flip his middle finger in his car at me in traffic. Whatever their response to me is, I remind myself that this grumpy person was once a bundle of joy. They laughed, played and smiled before the world made them bitter. When I do this, I pause any judgment for the moment. I see them with empathy and kindness. I can’t control how they go about their day however being that brief character that adds positivity can change the direction of the next person they engage with. In doing so, perhaps all our life movies can end up a little bit better than it was before. At the very least, the negative moment won’t linger with me for a very long time and in doing so I give myself permission to be at peace rather than react. I can’t help but laugh inside when I picture people as babies. Who can’t laugh at a baby that sticks his middle finger at you? You can’t take it seriously so use the passing moment as a chance to put a smile on your face.
As my meeting ends, I get up and make eye contact with this elderly lady once again. “Have a nice day,” I tell her. She gently responds “Why thank you, young man. I will now.” We both go on our way knowing for a brief moment we both made each other’s day a bit better. That’s all I can expect from a stranger who was once a baby.