Yesterday I sat in my car, buckled and ready to reverse just when I looked out my side window to see the people getting into their car next to mine.
There was a very elderly lady being seated in the back ever so gingerly. Her caretaker (that is what she appeared to be) carefully buckled her in, and then offered her a sip of ice water. Meanwhile I was in mid reverse, my engine running, on the go, and yet the ladies didn’t notice anything around them.
Simultaneously the elderly lady’s wheelchair didn’t have its brakes on and rolled into my rear side door. Instantly, I thought OK a little rude, these people aren’t really being considerate of the tight space we are sharing, should I roll down my window and say with as much patience as I can “excuse me”? Or should I let it go? I let it go. Those immediate feelings of impatience and annoyance washed over me, because I made myself stop and observe the situation, and the details of these ladies.
Here was a fragile, old, very dependent woman. A woman who has been living many more years than I. A lady who has seen and experienced so much of life, who probably raised children, took care of a family, and is now at the mercy of someone else to care for her. And then there is her caretaker. A much younger woman who still has a full life to live, yet is spending her time with someone who really needs her assistance and help. It was only moments this entire event took place, but in those moments I felt immediate annoyance because they were totally unaware of their surroundings, and then something really “mature” happened inside of me, that told me to turn off my feelings, but instead be patient and be empathetic. Once I did that, my busy life became very minor compared to the lives these ladies were living.
So, I parked my car, watched and waited, and waited.
Minutes later, after the lady was buckled in and hydrated, the caretaker finally whisked around to gather the wheelchair that was resting comfortably on my car. She didn’t even look up to see who was in the car, grabbed the chair and opened her trunk. Again the negative thoughts rushed over me, how could she not even acknowledge me? And again, I looked at her, at the lady through the window and just thought, they are doing their best. We are all doing what we can, and for the caretaker in that moment she was in a one track mind. The world around her didn’t exist; all that mattered was the task at hand — caring for the old lady.
I began to empathize since I also have humans who rely on me – a four-year old and a two-year old. And when they need me, everything around me freezes. So I get it. I get that sometimes it’s just absent mindedness, distraction, being so in the moment you forget to say please, thank you, excuse me or even make eye contact. And that’s OK. It takes the person who notices it not to get annoyed or pass judgement but to trust that the rest will work itself out.
Consideration of others feels way better than wanting others to be considerate of you. That parking lot experience was surely a test of my patience, but also a refresher lesson on the acts of empathy and consideration of others. Lesson accepted and understood.
Valentina Khan, JD, MA is the Managing Director for Investors Philanthropic. She was born & raised in Orange County, California. She is the visionary and co-founder of I Am Jerusalem, & was a contributing member to the Interfaith Youth Council of Orange County, both of which are non-profit organizations that focus on building bridges of understanding, compassion, and friendship within the interfaith communities. She is passionate about bringing the joy of philanthropy to millions, by educating, collaborating, and creating an opportunity for donors from all walks of life to fulfill their philanthropic missions.