I want to share the following story from chapter 5 of my book Bully Proofing You.
An acquaintance of mine, who I’ll call Lisa, told me the following story. As Lisa was riding Trax light-rail public transportation to work one morning, she had an experience that changed her perspective about others. She lived by the hospital and her ride was about forty-five minutes long. She enjoyed riding Trax because she didn’t have to deal with parking, and she could read a good book. She had been on the train for about five minutes when a father got on with his four children who ranged in ages from about ten to three. They all looked like they had slept in their clothes because their clothing was rumpled and dirty. They hadn’t had a shower for a few days and smelled a little ripe.
The children sat quietly for a few moments and then grew restless. They started pushing one another, and then they started talking. As the pushing increased, so did the volume of their voices. The father sat there as though nothing was going on. He never once said anything to his children. Pretty soon the kids were chasing each other around the train. Still the father didn’t say anything.
Other passengers got upset because their day was being disrupted. They were used to riding to work in silence. They’d read, work on their laptops, listen to music, look out the window, or talk quietly with their neighbors. It was usually civilized and mannerly, not like that morning at all. They gave the father and his children looks that said, “What are you doing? Can’t you see you are bothering us?” The father never raised his eyes from the floor and the children had no clue what was going on. The tension continued to mount.
Then one man in a dark blue suit stood up and walked over to the father. You could hear the sigh of relief. Everyone thought the disruption would end. The man in the suit cleared his throat and the father seemed to shake himself and come out of a deep trance. The father looked up at the nicely dressed man with a question in his gaze. The man in the suit asked the father, “Can you not hear and see what your children are doing on this train? You need to control them. They are bothering everyone else.”
The father, with a sad expression on his face, looked at his children with love in his eyes. They immediately quieted down and came to him. He didn’t say a word. He put his arms around them and, with tears running down his face, he said, “We are all out of sorts this morning. I decided to take the train home because I didn’t trust myself to drive. You see, my wife, their mother, died this morning and we just don’t know what we are going to do. I’m sure we’ll figure it out, but for now we just don’t know how we are going to make it.”
The rest of the train ride was quiet. Everyone was lost in thought. Some were glad they didn’t have to face what this family was facing. Some had lost a loved one and knew the difficult road ahead. All of them were changed. Their perspective went from one of annoyance to one of love and empathy for this father and his children in the blink of an eye.
You don’t know what someone is dealing with until you have walked in that person’s shoes. Maybe the person bullying you just needs to be understood and shown a caring heart. You could change that person’s life and make a difference. All it takes is some understanding on your part and some education on the bully’s.
What’s your perspective on the things around you?
Have a paradigm-shifting day,