The words, though difficult to hear, were not surprising. Something had happened, the situation was very wrong, feelings were trampled. She felt like she had to choose a side and she hadn’t chosen mine.
Given the circumstances, I never expected her to but I wished she could have. As much as I’d like to say I handled it all brilliantly, I didn’t. I struggled to show grace. The last several months have been precious because of a renewed understanding that we needn’t be confined to two sides. She could choose one that wasn’t mine. I could choose one that wasn’t hers. And we would choose each other, still.
Most of us have experienced something similar, I imagine. Certainly today’s headlines are filled with stories of who is right and who is wrong and not only that, but how very right or very wrong they are. Opinions are plentiful, and traded barbs are sharp indeed. In many cases facts seem to matter less than the comeback.
It’s often oh-so-loud, as though an increase in decibels equates to agreement. There are those who shout their truth because they believe it to be absolute. And there are those who shout only because they can. Sometimes we let our guard down enough to consider other points of view. It’s challenging to show that much grace though, and many times we don’t.
I once worked with pre-schoolers, and I well recall a moment in the playroom when a four-year-old screamed, “you’re not my friend!” before storming away in a miniature tornado of furious tears because other kids had banded together. They had chosen sides, too. And they hadn’t chosen him.
In the cacophony that followed, I remember trying to get his attention. With another child on my lap, I tried to out-shout him, calling his name, begging him to calm down. He ignored me. My boss walked into the room just then, and assessed the situation in a heartbeat. She walked over to the little boy, and whispered in his ear.
“I think Crystal’s trying to get your attention.”
He stopped crying. She hugged him, wiped his tears. He looked at me, somewhat puzzled, before he walked over. “Did you want something?” he asked, sniffling.
I smiled at him. I remember he joined the other child on my lap, and we finished reading a book. Shortly after that, the same kids who’d pushed him aside were back in circle laughing with him. I asked them what had happened to cause the upset a few minutes before.
“No one was listening to me,” one little guy said with a shrug of his shoulders. “I just got mad.”
It seems like there’s a lot of that going around these days. We hold on to our right to be right, refuse to let go of our perfectly good mads and pick around the details of a slight until it festers and scars, leaving a palliative case of emotional atherosclerosis behind.
I can’t help wondering what would happen though, if we whispered more often?