blurry crowd of people walking on the street

5 Minute Changemaker: Pretend You Know (and Care About) Everyone

by Marsha Rakestraw

The other day, as I was driving home from the dog park, I was following an SUV that stopped in the midst of a turn to let a pedestrian cross the street.

Apparently the pedestrian and the people in the SUV knew each other, as they waved heartily and spoke briefly to each other. Not 10 seconds later, as the SUV finished its turn and drove on, a car cut into the lane in front of the SUV. The driver honked repeatedly and shook his fist at the other driver, obviously angry at being delayed a few seconds.

I remember during the holiday season, when lines at the post office were long, and patience was short, watching people roll their eyes and sigh heavily and make unkind comments to their companions about people ahead of them whom they felt were taking too long.

I remember several years ago honking impatiently at the car in front of me when the driver didn’t react to the traffic light change quickly enough for me. I was embarrassed and abashed after I followed the car all the way home and discovered that I had been honking at one of my friends, who lives with me in our co-housing community.

I felt embarrassed that I had behaved less than compassionately with my friend because I know her. Because I have a positive relationship with her, I’m much more willing to practice patience, empathy, and kindness.

How would our reactions to other people change if we pretended that we knew (and cared about) every one of them?

Would we be so quick to honk, to cut in front, to sigh and roll our eyes? If we knew a bit of their story, would we be less likely to yell, to speak rudely, to judge?

When I use the lens of strangers as “a friend I haven’t met yet,” I find that I’m much more relaxed and forgiving in my encounters and more willing to reach out and try to connect, and I find myself feeling more positive toward everyone.

Give it a try.

Your Turn!

  • What helps you practice patience and kindness with people who are annoying you?