The Other Side
The Other Side
by Hilary Harper-Wilcoxen // August 13, 2019
The other day I found myself waiting in line at a deli counter. Here in Maine it is rare to wait in line, except during the summer. I could feel myself getting a little impatient, though I said nothing.
The lady behind the counter suddenly said, “I’m going as fast as I can!”
She must have felt our silent displeasure.
Then she said, “I know it’s easy to be impatient when you’re waiting. I always was when I was on that side, but when I started this job it surprised me how long it can take to get an order right. I’m sorry.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I waited. The other lady said nothing. (There were only two of us in this “line”…)
Finally, I said, “It’s good to have been on both sides.”
She agreed and we started a nice, normal conversation, – about my shoes which she had noticed and which have sparkles on them, about the chicken salad I was ordering for my mom. Just talk. Talk that said, right under the words, that we were now ok with each other.
Today I found myself thinking back and being grateful for that brief encounter. Grateful she had spoken up and said something. Grateful she had accepted my unspoken apology so graciously. Grateful I hadn’t said anything really stupid; meaning, mean.
I often choose to write about emotions because they are always knocking loudly at the door of my world.
Our youngest son used to say, “You hewt my feewings.” And we had. Usually unintentionally but, nonetheless, he felt it and he wanted us to know.
As adults we somehow aren’t supposed to have feelings but, of course, we do. For instance, I hurt that lady’s feelings yesterday. Not by something I said but by something I didn’t say. By standing there, arms crossed and, probably, frowning. Judging her; impatient.
So, what should we do? I have no easy answers but I do know that the best thing I did yesterday was decide to wait to respond until I had something worth saying, something that would acknowledge her effort and respect her situation.
We have all been on “the other side.” At some point we, too, have felt judged, rushed, or looked down on because of our job, or our looks, or our social or economic status. And I’d bet we have all been grateful for people who have been patient or kind with us, and understood something of our struggle; have tried to imagine what it might be like on “the other side.”
Some people have an easier time with this than others (like me) and, instead, find it difficult to speak up when something should be said. But I have come to believe that the qualities of kindness and honesty are not mutually exclusive. Can be, in fact, complimentary.
So, the next time I am inconvenienced maybe I will think of what the person inconveniencing me might be feeling, or at least remind myself that I, too, have been on that side and, at least, stop frowning.
Thanks Hilary for the great food for thought! If you're intrested in learning more about Hilary and what she's up to, you can check out her work in education and helping children get the support they need in today's school systems at Bear Pond Learning.