I was at the Dollarama a couple of days ago (for the non-Canadians out there, this is a dollar store chain we have in Canada) picking up pens and poster board for some up-coming workshops. I thought I’d heard some yelling when I first walked in and when I lined up to pay, I saw the source of that yelling…
There was a young woman shouting and swearing at the cashiers. It seemed pretty obvious she had a developmental disability and was very worked up. She was yelling about the unfairness of being taxed on something. She was cursing on the top of her lungs at everybody looking at her and wouldn’t leave despite the security guard trying to usher her out.
I was dismayed to see the number of employees rolling their eyes at the situation and a bunch of high school kids behind me laughing at her and egging her on. I get that this kind of situation makes everybody uncomfortable and these kind of reactions are a defense mechanism, but it’s little acts like this that create so much more division and isolation in our already aching world.
So, I wasn’t sure what would happen (and wasn’t married to the outcome), but I thought I’d see if there was an opportunity to shift the situation.
I went over to this woman who was spitting mad and I just said in a very soft warm voice,“Ma’am…do you need any help? Is there anything I can do to help?” I knew there was a good chance she’d tell me to f-off, but instead… she immediately softened.
She said in a distressed, but much softer voice how she felt like the manager wasn’t listening and how the government is putting all these taxes on her and she has all these mental and physical problems. I just listened to her with soft eyes as she talked for a bit. As I engaged with her I could see past the ranting unhinged person to the vulnerable lost child.
Then, I said, “It sounds like you’ve been having a really bad day…would you like a hug?”
Again, I was not at all sure if she would take me up on my offer, but she immediately put her stuff down, came around to the front of her walker and came in for that hug. As soon as I wrapped my arms around her, she broke down and sobbed.
She said that she feels badly when she blows up but doesn’t have a lot of control over it and is working with a behavioural therapist on this issue. She talked about being abused as a child. She talked about how kids have always made fun of her. She said she couldn’t understand why the government was so unfair.
I spoke with her a little about how she may not be able to control the government and taxes, but she can decide whether to share love or anger in how she reacts to others. We spoke for a little longer and we walked away, no drama, from the store together.
I have no idea how much of that encounter will sink in for her, but in that moment she was met with love and understanding as opposed to irritation, fear, and ridicule. And it is moments strung together that create our life and character.
Now I don’t share this story in a ‘hey look at the awesome thing I did’. I share it because I’ve been the eye-roller in similar scenarios in the past. I’ve dismissed others as “crazy” or an “asshole”. I forget on many occasions that there is a whole universe going on within an individual. BUT I’m trying to be more vigilant in choosing love over “othering”, because it is interactions strung together that create the character of our society.
And if you don’t have the bandwidth or feel safe enough to step into a situation like this (totally understandable!), you can still help by cultivating compassion for folks from a distance. This may not directly help the person but it will help to create one less eye-roller in the world and one more open heart.
WINS FOR ANIMALS IN 2018
Please take a moment to watch and share in some of the victories for animals here in Canada this year including courtroom battles, high-profile campaigns, and FOUR animal protection bills in Parliament!
The plight of animals in today’s world is a very depressing one, and we all could us some hope and momentum in helping create change. WATCH NOW