There’s this couple I know, and they’re awesome people. They’re nice, they’re fun and they have three amazing kids that they’re crafting into similarly wonderful humans. They’re the kind of family that everyone likes to have in their friend circle.
A little while ago, they shared a photo on Facebook of this cute little popup camper they’d just bought so they could take their family on rad camping adventures. I was immediately excited for them! Some of my favorite memories from my childhood are of camping with my family. Those kids are going to have the best time, and they’ll probably cherish those experiences.
Their neighborhood has sidewalks, WIDE streets and plenty of parking. But their yard is impossibly steep and they couldn’t get the camper into it. Instead they parked it on the street in front of their house, just for the summer while they’re using it.
Then a police officer knocked on their door to say that an “anonymous neighbor” had called to complain and apologetically informed them that they would have to find somewhere else to put their camper.
My thoughts, in order:
What the hell?
This anonymous person didn’t bother to try talking to my friends, so I can only guess at their reasons. But I can’t think of any good ones. The camper is not creating a traffic hazard, it’s not taking up valuable parking spaces. It’s just sitting there, minding its own business, violating a teeny, pointless zoning ordinance.
The only explanation I can come up with is that they just didn’t like it. And so they decided to try to make it go away.
Sounds kind of petty, right?
And it worked. My friends had to scramble to find somewhere else to park it. And fortunately they did. But now they have one more hoop to jump through every time they want to use it.
We make dozens of little choices like this every day. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we’re being given a choice – we just encounter a situation and do what feels natural to us. We do what’s in our nature.
Sometimes the choice we make is all about us – what we want and how we want the world and other people to be. We try to bend things to our vision.
Instead, we can choose to look at things through a more empathetic lens. Realize that most people are just doing the best they can, and that life is hard enough for all of us. Don’t make anyone’s day harder than it needs to be.
Just move on and let people do their thing.
Sure, there will be things we don’t like about people. Things that will irritate the shit out of us or make us jealous. But usually, those things don’t actually have anything to do with us. No one is going about their day trying to think of ways to live that will bother us. They’re just living. We can choose how we react to that.
You can throw up the red flag, raise the alarm and decide to put a stop to their unfettered insistence to live their lives the way they want.
Will that make you feel like you’ve been a good person today?
I was going through some boxes of kiddo stuff recently. A lot of school papers and art projects from when I was just a wee ginger.
One of them asked that same stupid question that we’re always asking kids: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
And I wrote: “Be nice to people and be good at stuff.”
I guess I didn’t understand the exercise. They wanted a job description and I gave them a platitude. But that’s still my philosophy.
Don’t make anyone else’s life harder than it needs to be. Try to be awesome.
And because I am all about teaching through snarky flowcharts, I created a visual. Perhaps to discreetly drop in the path of a habitual day ruiner? Got you covered.