Kindness Suggestion  

By Joseph Walker, Author of ValueSpeak

All in all, it was shaping up to be a bad day as we traveled home after the family reunion.

For one thing, the sleeping accommodations at the hotel hadn’t been all that pleasant.  For another, we stopped for gas and paid $3.67 per gallon.  $3.67!  I didn’t pay that much for my first car (OK, so it was a beat-up old Buick that my father gave to me on the condition that I pay for the repairs myself – I think you get my point).

And for a third, as we were driving we came upon a horrifying accident that had traffic at a standstill for 10 or 12 miles.  Even though the accident was southbound and we were northbound, it sort of had me wondering if it was an omen of highway uckiness to come – for us.

Then we pulled into our favorite restaurant for breakfast.  If ever there was a way to lift our spirits, it was a waffle or some French toast or an omelet at this place.  There was even a parking spot right up front despite a crowded parking lot.  I thought things were looking up until I paused by the sidewalk to let Anita and the kids jump out of the car before I parked it.  While they were sliding out the door a gentleman in a sporty little car came bounding into the parking lot and took the parking space I was signaling my intent to enter.

“Oh man,” I thought, fatalistically.  “Here we go.  Bad stuff.  Bad day.”

And I braced myself for what surely was to come.

Not being the confrontational sort, I sighed, shifted my car into reverse and prepared to back up and go in search of another parking spot.  But as I glanced toward the sporty little car that had taken my spot, I noticed the man and the woman in there talking.  She was pointing at me, and he was looking in my direction.  Then I saw his reverse lights come on as he backed out of the spot he had “stolen” from me.  He rolled down his window as he approached me.

“I am so sorry,” he said.  “I didn’t notice that you were signaling to move into that spot.”

Well, this was something I wasn’t expecting.  And I wasn’t exactly sure how to react.

“Hey, it’s survival of the fastest out here,” I said.  “It’s yours if you want it.”

“Nah,” he said.  “I hate it when people steal my spot.  I couldn’t do that to someone else.”

“And I wouldn’t let him,” his wife said, forcefully, from the passenger’s seat.

They smiled and waved and drove back into the parking lot, leaving the space up front for me.  I walked into the restaurant feeling uplifted and revitalized, with a new positive outlook toward what was surely going to be a good day.  Orange juice never tasted sweeter, nor was there ever a finer, fluffier omelet than the one I enjoyed that morning.  Even the English muffin I ordered came to me slightly burned around the edges – just how I like it!

As we prepared to go I noticed the couple from the sporty little car finishing breakfast.  I stopped to thank them again for their act of kindness, but they shrugged it off as no big deal.

“Life is too short,” he said, “to waste any time or energy on being a jerk.”

I know – I was stunned by his unique philosophy, too.  We live in a time when people seem to be more concerned with protecting what they perceive to be their rights than they are in doing what is actually right, and we don’t mind being a jerk about it if that’s what it takes.  I’m as guilty of it as anyone (an awkward encounter with a crotchety older woman at a recent ball game comes to mind).  But I was so inspired by this couple’s “no jerk” policy that I found myself trying to live by it for the rest of the trip home – as a motorist, as a customer and as a husband and father – and you know what?  It turned out to be a pretty darn good day for all of us.

So I commend the philosophy to you.  Honestly, it isn’t as hard as it sounds. When it comes right down to it, it’s really pretty simple: don’t be a jerk.

And have a good day.

— © Joseph Walker,

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