So, there are 2 huge lessons I’ve learned from all of this. 2 lessons that I learned in Walmart of all places. Freaking Walmart!
A couple weeks ago I went to Walmart with my 2 kids. We were going to watch a movie together that night so my kids went one way to get the snacks they wanted and I went toward the pharmacy section to grab some bar soap and ibuprofen. I grabbed my items and as I was walking to meet-up with my kids, I saw them heading toward the toy section. I met them near the skateboards and they relayed the following story to me:
They were walking down an aisle in the store when a little toddler, probably no more than 18 months old, turned the corner and headed straight for them. There were no adults or older siblings with this little baby. So, my 16-year-old picked-up the child and, along with my 14-year-old, started walking up and down the aisles asking who this baby belonged to.
Along the way, a couple other concerned moms started helping too.
After about 3 aisles, a mother walked up to my 16-year-old and claimed the child. She was with 2 other kids who were maybe 5 and 7 years old. The mother took her baby from my child’s arms without saying sorry or even thanking my kids. Instead, she looked down at her own kids and said, “You had one job to watch your baby sister and you messed it up.”
My kids were so appalled that they didn’t say anything. But one of the moms who was helping had a great response. She said, “It’s not your kids’ job to watch your baby.”
The negligent mother walked away. But before she went too far she turned back and warned the other mother: “You better watch your mouth.”
“You better watch your kids,” the second mom replied perfectly.
I praised my kids for what they’d done and we shared a chuckle about what the other mother had said. Then my 16-year-old grabbed a skateboard down and said he was going to ride it across the store to get his snack. I told him he absolutely was not going to do that. He put one foot on the board and looked at me. So, I turned into stern dad and threatened to take his cell phone. That made him comply. But I could feel that it wasn’t over. He was ready to test me and/or act out in another way.
The 3 of us started walking together and my mind began to race about why my 16-year-old was always looking to defy me and why he always felt the need to push the envelope. But then it hit me.
He’s not always looking to defy me or to push the envelope. He’d just been through a stressful incident. He’d done the exact right thing but the actions of the other mother – leaving her little baby to wander around Walmart and then being rude about it – had raised my child’s anxiety level. He wasn’t looking to misbehave or do something wrong. He was simply looking for a way to release the anxiety and the angst he was feeling.
I stopped right there and turned and gave him a big hug. “I’m proud of you. You did a good thing and you should be proud too,” I said to him. “I’m sorry about that baby but you did the right thing.”
“I just feel bad for the baby,” he said to me.
“I know,” I said. “But you did the right thing and I’m proud of you.”
And just like that, I felt his anxiety level drop and mine did too. And I suddenly realized that probably most, if not all, of his behavior has a root to it. And I was able to recognize this fact because I have been taking care of myself and focusing on my own health. So, I was able to be in the moment enough and to correctly analyze what was happening in real time as it was happening.
And it didn’t take me long to understand that the mother who left her baby had a reason for her behavior too. It doesn’t excuse her leaving her baby or being unfair to her other children or her being rude to my children, but it does allow me to see her as a human being who is worthy of my compassion and understanding. Again, let me repeat that. It does not excuse her behaviors, but it does help me to understand and have compassion for her.
And that helped me to see that everyone in the world is worthy of compassion. Everyone has a lot of crap that has happened in their lives and continues to happen. We are all human beings. We all have hardships. So, when people cut me off in Walmart or bump into my cart and then glare at me, it doesn’t make their behavior right but it does make me more okay to accept it. As long as they aren’t hurting me or interfering with my life, then it’s okay for me to not react negatively to them. In fact, it will help me to be healthier and happier if I don’t take offense every time I get an undeserved dirty look or I’m forced to wait an extra 30 seconds because someone rudely cut me off or blocked my way. That is only a person living (and probably struggling to live) his or her life and their behavior literally has nothing to do with me. It’s okay.
And here’s the interesting thing:
Since I realized this, I swear to God that people in Walmart seem nicer. I was at Walmart a couple days ago and it was absolutely packed. I couldn’t go more than 10 feet without having to dodge other carts. And I almost ran into probably half a dozen other carts. But every single time I had to wait or I almost bumped into another cart or I got in the way of another cart, I smiled and said “excuse me” or “sorry” and every single time the other person smiled back and said “excuse me” or “sorry” or “it’s okay” back to me.
I didn’t get one dirty look. And I got tons of smiles.
So, there are 2 lessons I’ve learned from all of this. 2 huge lessons that I learned in Walmart of all places. Freaking Walmart!
The first lesson is to remember that we are all people shopping and that every person has his or her own shit going on. People do not just choose to be miserable. Keeping this in mind allows me to have compassion for them, which makes me happier and less stress.
And the second lesson is that my own attitude can have a huge impact on how people react to me and can also help determine the people I come into contact with. And this too makes me happier and less stressed. Not only because I am not dealing with other people’s rudeness, but also because I feel empowered. I have more control over my world then I realized.
That’s a great realization that makes me happy. And I owe it all to Walmart. Walmart! Amidst the jammed-up cashier lines, pajama wearing shoppers, I found greater mental health and happiness. In freaking Walmart! Who would’ve thought? Just goes to show life is a strange and beautiful trip. And if I can learn this in Walmart, then what can I learn from the rest of the world?