Stephen R. Covey wrote about a powerful life lesson in his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Covey explains, “I remember a mini-paradigm shift I experienced one Sunday morning on a subway in New York. People were sitting quietly—some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene. Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed. The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing. It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, ‘Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?’ The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, ‘Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”
I can’t even begin to imagine the mortification Covey experienced in that subway. Wait a minute! Actually I do. I mean, we all do. We make judgements about the people surrounding us—the woman with her unruly child, the gentleman who angrily speaks to a grocer, the child who kicks his brother, etc. And in that moment, we forget that each of us carry a story. So, instead of judging those around us, let’s embrace an attitude of love and understanding, and most of all, grace. Once Covey realized the magnitude of the situation, he says, “Suddenly I SAW things differently, I FELT differently, I BEHAVED differently. . . Everything changed in an instant.” How can we all remember that each of us carries a story? How can we embrace love and kindness rather than judgement?
One committed to processing truth, finding light in the darkness, savoring the simple, and living fully.