One of my absolute favorite things to do is go to the mall and “people watch”, AKA “stare”, as my kids would call it. Recently, I took my daughters and son-in-law to the mall with the idea of letting them pick out a few things for Christmas, but I also wanted to purposely sit and people watch, AKA “stare”. When the girls were teenagers, once or twice they would come up to me while I was sitting on the mall bench and say, “Mom, are you staring?” Well, of course I was! It’s what I love to do! And…. I am good at it! J J There is something just so enchanting and mesmerizing about people watching. And so the adventure began.
It was before Thanksgiving, but Santa was already out and “receiving visitors”. Christmas decorations were out, and I could hear the faint sound of Christmas carols playing and people chattering in the background. The mall wasn’t packed; hence, it was rather relaxing. So there I sat on the mall bench, quite content.
I saw many different people of all ages, shapes and sizes. I observed:
- An energetic young lady working at a kiosk walking around encouraging people to try her “samples”. I observed she got a “taker”. An older couple stopped, it looked like they completed an “Enter to Win” a scooter.
- A young mother pushing her sleeping baby in the stroller (at least the baby was asleep for now!)
- A content-looking middle-aged woman pushing an elderly woman – probably her mom – in a wheelchair. What a demonstration of love. And of course, that reminded me how much I miss my own Mom.
- More than a few young couples in their 20’s or 30’s walking along, starry-eyed and holding hands without a care in the world.
- Groups of giddy teenagers, tripping over one another, texting on their phones and laughing.
- A grey-haired couple probably in their 70’s wearing good sneakers and dressed in comfortable clothes walking at a steady pace. I think they were here at the mall to exercise! What a great pastime and afternoon outing!
- A young man with long dreads and four kids at his heels. I would “guestimate” the kids were roughly ages 5 – 10. The kids were so well-behaved and walking along right by their dad’s side. (I assumed at this point that he bribed them with an ice cream treat for later).
- An authoritative looking, slim security officer, probably in his 50’s, leaning over the second story railing watching people on the first deck. A people watching mall security job would be perfect for me! I would get to walk the mall and just “people watch” all day … and get paid! But, then I remembered, I hate to stand on my feet for very long, so I guess that wouldn’t work.
And so the list goes on. People seemed generally content and happy at the mall that day. Some folks seemed like they were enjoying an afternoon outing, just strolling along, maybe doing some Christmas shopping, buying presents. The young gals were probably trying to find new outfits, or maybe they were just out for some window shopping and exercise.
With all these many different types of people – big and small, all different sizes, shapes and colors, different backgrounds – I always come back to the same question, “How in the world does the good Lord expect us to get along with each other?”
Well, it seems to me, one step at a time, and usually one person at a time. Does this mean that sometimes we have to just put blank smiles on our face and keep our fat traps shut when we are annoyed or someone makes us furious? Maybe. Sometimes I have to pinch my finger or bite my tongue so I don’t blurt out something stupid because I have learned the hard way, many times it just isn’t worth the hassle of the alternative.
I recall several years ago, working in an office next to “Sally”. Sally’s desk was jammed right up to my cubicle practically on top of me. I almost always get along with co-workers and employees, but for some reason Sally just rubbed me the wrong way. The moment she opened her mouth, it was like someone running their nails down a chalkboard. You know, that person who just brings out the worst in you! And Sally and I somehow would argue, and argue LOUDLY. Once or twice, our supervisor would come out just to tell us to lower our voices. Over time, we adjusted and although I can’t say that I ever really liked Sally, we got used to each other, and I made more of an effort to cohabitate at work with her. Sally had a very difficult and hard life, and I tried to just put myself in her shoes. Somehow, in the midst of our differences, we learned to tolerate each other.
See, I have certainly not “arrived” yet, but I have discovered – life truly gets easier when you keep your mouth shut and make that extra effort to get along.
God uses all kinds of people in our lives to teach us many different lessons. One thing, though, I NEVER PRAY for “patience” from God anymore. I have learned my lesson on that one! Just when we think we have “arrived” – BAM – along comes the lesson – sometimes in the form of some obnoxious and annoying person. Then I find later I beg for mercy, “Okay, God, haven’t I learned enough by now???? Could I get a break please?????”
Maybe this is, at least in part, a “heart” issue. Maybe all of these different people that are so difficult, or different from us, are placed in our lives to “soften” our hearts and make us appreciate each other a little bit more. I mean, usually these people that rub us the wrong way have a different upbringing than ours, a different personality, and often a different point of view. I have learned through much experience, everyone has a different life journey. Our journeys aren’t always harder or easier, better or worse, just DIFFERENT.
I really like Ann Landers’ “The Ten Commandments of HOW TO GET ALONG WITH PEOPLE”:
- Keep skid chains on your tongue. I personally love this one – great analogy!
- Make promises sparingly and keep them faithfully, no matter what the cost. Regretfully, sometimes I find myself overtired and “overbooked” and end up cancelling a girls’ night out because I have just over committed myself.
- Never let an opportunity pass to say a kind and encouraging word to or about somebody. Okay, let’s all let this one soak in for a minute, please, because we all know we could do this more often!
- Be interested in others – their pursuits, their work, their homes and families. I am always reminded of one of my favorite Bible teachers, Joyce Meyer, when she says, “What about me? What about me? What about me?” Well, then I am reminded it’s not always about ME.
- Don’t burden or depress those around you by dwelling on your minor aches and pains and small disappointments. Paraphrase, “Stop your whining!” Or, at least, keep it to a minimum.
- Keen an open mind. Discuss, but don’t argue. Our world is shaped by our perception, but it doesn’t mean we are always right. Usually there is more than one correct viewpoint, but in order to see it, we have to be open to it.
- Let your virtues, if you have any, speak for themselves. Discourage gossip as it serves no good purpose. Gossip is meant for one thing, to bring attention to the person spreading it. This is one time when “just say no” would be great advice!
- Be careful of another’s feelings. You’ve heard the phrase, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It is a lie. Words can hurt, and once they leave your mouth, there is nothing you can do to shove them back in. Even an apology will not erase an insensitive or unkind word.
- Pay no attention to disparaging remarks. You have probably heard the phrases like “Shake it off”, or “Just let it roll off like water on a duck’s back”.
- Don’t be too eager to get the credit due you. Forget about yourself, and let others “remember”. Sometimes I am most thankful for the times when God failed to give me what I really deserved … I think you know exactly what I mean.
I feel that I often fail many of these “tests” and “challenges”. I mean, we are only human. But I do think that if we all tried just a little bit more often, there would be a little bit more harmony in our own little piece of the world.
Hey, if you are the mall later this month, please be looking for me. I will probably be sitting on a bench, sipping on a Starbuck’s coffee and eating a Cinnabon’s pastry. How will you know me? I will be the one looking completely content “staring” at everyone walking by!