The other day, something really really weird happened. It didn’t even involve farm animals which makes it even weirder because my farm animals are weird.
On the day in question, The Pastor, three of our children, and I were making a cross country drive. OK. We are not exotic millionaires who go on fancy cross country vacations. It was more like a cross county drive.
About half way through our trip we realized that the children had missed lunch and the car was getting low on gas, so we did a very normal and logical thing. We stopped at a gas station/convenience store to fill everyone up. This gas station was a major chain that we frequently use because they tend to have good prices on things like fresh fruit and cheese and other fairly healthy things.
The Pastor filled up the tank while the children and I went inside. I grabbed a case of bottled water while the children each chose a lunch that fit inside the parameters of cheap and healthy. Then The Pastor came in, grabbed a sandwich and an apple. We stood in line, paid, and headed out to the car.
That is when the truly weird thing happened.
The children ran out to the car and jumped in, eager to eat their lunches, I walked out behind them, and The Pastor brought up the rear. As I was walking out, I noticed a small elderly man. He had backed his car up to the pump in front of us, which seemed strange because we were the only car at the pumps. I usually find it easier to just pull into an open row rather than back up in front of someone else, but to each their own.
I didn’t notice it at the time, but I also gave this elderly man a lot of room, didn’t make eye contact with him, and kind of rushed by. It’s something I did unconsciously for reasons I will explain later.
I went to the back of the van and loaded in the case of water. Then I hopped into the passenger side and started sorting out everyone’s lunch, which, if you have children, you know looks something like this.
After quite a while, The Pastor got into the driver’s seat. “Wow.” he said. “I’m sorry if you had to hear any of that.”
“Any of what?” I asked, my mouth full of cookies.
“The verbal assault I just received from that angry angry man! Didn’t you notice?!”
I scrunched up my forehead and rewound the previous ten minutes.
I remembered the elderly man. I remembered avoiding him. I did it unconsciously, but I knew why I did it.
For an extended period of my life, I lived with a very angry person. When you live with someone who is always angry and frequently misdirects that anger, you learn to take people’s mood temperature very quickly. I am very seldom surprised when someone tells me they are angry, sad, or excited. I can usually feel it coming off of them the moment I see them.
I caught this man’s anger right away, which was probably why I hustled the kids into the car, gave him a wide berth, and refused to make eye contact. I have a very particular set of skills, it seems.
Apparently, this man did not like the fact that we left our van at the pump while we went in to pay for our gas. I’m not sure if he didn’t realize that we were literally the only car at four double sided rows of gas pumps, if he was upset that we didn’t know the gas pump law of that particular small town, or if we had inadvertently pulled up to his special gas pump the way some people get upset when the visitors sit in “their spot” at church.
What ever it was, we had ticked this man off.
And this is where it got really weird.
The man then spent almost ten minutes yelling at The Pastor about things like our religion, our political choices, our levels of education, the way we were raising our children, our “snowflakeness”, and a variety of other personal lifestyle choices that The Pastor and I have made.
You might find it interesting to know, that he was wrong on almost every single one of his assumptions. Even the one about out age. He wasn’t even close.
The Pastor just stood there, watching the show until the man paused to take a breath. The The Pastor said something like “Sorry you’re having a bad day.” and hopped into the car.
Now obviously this man had some displaced anger. He was upset about something else. Maybe his wife was very sick. Maybe a friend had just died. Maybe his mental health was slipping (I kind of vote for that one. Mostly because I’m mean.) Whatever it was, this guy probably didn’t feel it was appropriate to release his anger at the thing that was actually making him angry, so he grasped for the first tiny thing he could feel justified screaming at, and that thing happened to be us leaving our van at the pump while we went in to pay.
Here is what I started thinking about, though. Because this man was so offended by one choice we made, he assumed a whole lot of things about us. He assumed that because we were stupid enough not to pay for gas the way he did, that we couldn’t possibly have anything in common with us. Because if you can relate to someone on one issue, obviously you should be able to relate to them on every issue. Right?
Yeah, not so much.
This man probably would have had a heart attack if he knew The Pastor was indeed an actual pastor. This man was a Christian. We couldn’t possibly be Christians because we pay for gas differently than he does. (Before you tell me that this man couldn’t possibly be a Christian because of all of the hate he was spewing, let me assure you that I have lost my temper occasionally and I’m pretty sure God forgave me and let me continue to try and follow Him.)
We assume that people who practice the same religion as us must have the same temperament as we do. Trust me. There are very angry people practicing every religion. There are also very peaceful people practicing every religion.
We assume that people who vote the same as we do must be as intelligent as we are. I hate to break it to you, but there are complete idiots voting for every single political party. Even yours. There are even (brace yourself) highly intelligent people voting differently than you are. Those people, aren’t even wrong. They have just had different life experiences than you have and therefor see the world differently than you do.
We assume that people who are less educated than us (or more educated than us) are less intelligent than we are. We assume this because of that guy we saw that one time or that video we watched or that group we saw at the restaurant.
We even make assumptions about people based on their age. The generation ahead of us is obviously less enlightened, close minded, and selfish. The generation behind us is lazy, spoiled, and completely lacking in any wisdom. It doesn’t matter which generation we are in. Every generation believes this.
So the entire situation mad me think. There are terrible people in every religion, even the one that I participate in. There are terrible people in every political party. Even the tiny one I tend to vote for. There are terrible people of every level of education. The one that I am a part of. There are terrible people in every generation.
But there are also wonderful people in every religion. Yes, even that one. There are wonderful people in every political party. Even that one. There are wonderful people at every level of education and in every generation. My job is not to look for the terrible people and point fingers. My job is to try to find the wonderful person in every person. Even when they are hiding.