i was trying to keep count of all of the interactions i had with humans in a single day. unfortunately, i didn’t get very far before i forgot the number. it went something like this: my family at breakfast, a friend in an early morning phone call. there were the strangers at the gas pumps, the travelers with three kids and a dog in the backseat, and the cashier at the station. the drivers that passed me on the highway, the construction workers that waived me on by. coworkers and consumers. store cashiers and secretaries, doctors, dentists, and assistants. people that held the door open, and people that let it close in my face. strangers that smiled, and heavy sighs of impatience over the long wait in line. you get the point.
i recognized that some form of an exchange took place in all of these interactions. a formal exchange like that of paying for a material good, the ‘hello.good, thank you. how are you?’ kind of informal reciprocation that reminds me of our human affinity to connection, and an emotional exchange, a response to whatever it is that the other person might be offering at the time. my thoughts.moods.feelings.behaviors in response to their behaviors.feelings.mood. – -it was both surprising and not so surprising to recognize that the emotional exchange-regardless of how brief- was the one that lingered with me for the rest of the day.
the funny thing about days is how easily they are colored by the exchanges we have with the people we encounter. you know, the morning that turns ‘bad’ because of a reckless driver or an unkind cashier. or the ruined afternoon because of difficult customer or challenging client. the meal that is ruined because ‘the server got it all wrong.’ it’s always amazing to me to realize how significant of a role people play in our lives.
and then it goes back to this: the only thing we are in control of is how we act and react. if we can’t control how we are treated by others, we can control how we respond and what we bring to the exchange.
what i am learning is that i can choose to respond to each situation with my best self.
what if you decided to make each interaction- the part you are in control of- a good one? to extend to that difficult human being the benefit of the doubt. what if you interacted with every person with the belief that they are good and kind? that they-like you-are mostly just trying to do their best? what if you offered a smile in exchange for their scowl. a kind gesture in exchange for an invitation to anger. a polite response to a frustrating conversation. kindness in response to their hostility? acceptance in exchange for their judgement?
because i’d like to think that these kinds of exchanges are about the heart.
on bad days- or on days when our hearts are running on low- an extra dose of sunshine, an additional serving of love, and an extra pinch of kindness can make all the difference. you can make each exchange about responding with love. you can make it about building people up and helping them to have a better day.
the way i see it is, if i can give away some of my heart, maybe-just maybe, it will start to fill their’s up.
and maybe that’s what we all need, hearts that are full.