A number of years ago I worked as a communications manager at a grassroots community-building non-profit and I was responsible for the kiosk in the front of the building. A kiosk that served as a resource for neighborhood and community goings' on. One day I went to update the flyers in the kiosk and realized the glass window pane that kept the paper notices dry was broken.
My first reaction was confusion. My second reaction was "who did this?" My mind began spinning and playing out stories of people who might intentionally break the glass: teenagers, people who despise community building, drunk people (it was located near a heck of a lot of bars).... as I pondered, one of our board members, a guy in his 60's who I absolutely adored, came up and stood next to me and joined me in pondering the broken glass. We stood hand-on-face trying to make a sense of it for a few moments.
I said: "I wonder why someone would do this?"
He said: "it was probably an accident."
An accident? I hadn't even considered that! Of course! Even if it wasn't an accident, what is the point of getting my undies in a bundle trying to make sense of it?
This experience, seemingly insignificant, informs me to this day. So many of us jump to conclusions so quickly and we go to the "bad place" when we do. We assume the worst: the worst of the situation, the worst of other people and ourselves. Maybe we do this because we're still beholden to our survival nature - the part of us that is calculating risk all the time. Maybe we do it because we're easily influenced by a culture of doubt and low expectations. What ever the reason... it doesn't lead to the happy place.
Today I am grateful to recognize that even if that glass had been broken on purpose, it was not something to get bent out of shape over. But the reason for my epiphany isn't about picking my battles... it is about realizing that hurt people hurt people (and things). Reacting in rage, judgement or with the will to disconnect from the other is choosing to step into fear. By responding (not reacting) after reflection, choosing to see that there is a world of context behind why people do what they do, and taking accountablity for my contribution to the situation not only saves me from having to pump a bunch of cortisol into my system... it allows me to take it all in stride. Other people's stuff and unexpected situations don't have to derail my journey at all. I just have to see that broken glass as innocent instead of congested with worst case scenarios. Sometimes it is just broken glass.
Thank you Pete.