Grace in Memes and Subway Poles

Photo from this article about the people you see on subways

As New Yorkers, there are a whole host of standard complaints that bind us together — the way tourists walk (amIright?), blocking the box — and the one that I experienced this morning, the guy who plasters his whole body on the subway pole that is meant for many hands. As I found my fingers squirming under the weight of my fellow traveler, it dawned on me that in a thousand ways that I probably never realize, I have my metaphorical back on the subway pole, annoying my fellow travelers through life. We don’t always know it when we are the bull in a china shop.

I was reminded of this a couple of days ago when I reposted what I thought was a benign meme on Facebook. To me what it said was “goodness and truth will win in the end” — which I find an uplifting message. I received a text in response from a dear, dear friend who gently asked me how it was that a message that seemed to her to be one of division- of “my team will beat your team”- is consistent with who she graciously believes me to be. Let me say that I am blessed to have a friend like this who is willing to suspend judgement against my clear and obvious flaws, but instead reaches out and asks “can you help me to understand what you meant by this”. My eyes are literally tearing up as I write this, so grateful am I to be given the benefit of the doubt that my intentions were good, even if the delivery wasn’t what I wanted it to be.

How many times are we given the opportunity to extend that grace to someone else- how often could I do this- and I miss it? How often do we jump to the worst interpretation of what someone says or does rather than extending them the possibility that maybe their intentions were something entirely different?

We live in a harsh world. We, as a people, are really very quick to judge, to blame, to want to be right. We can see it in the news day after day after day. The hatred that emerges on both sides of current events- whether Supreme court nominations, or kneeling at football games — or upcoming elections. We all have a point of view, and that is as it should be, but do we need everyone to agree with our view? Do we have to hate people who disagree? I have been given the gift of friends and family who disagree with me about many, many issues- and I love them. This love can, and needs to be, extended as far as I can reach it to people I don’t know and can so easily judge- all the way to that subway pole this morning! How boring (and frequently wrong) would the world be if everyone agreed with me, and how much better if I could think about the thousands of reasons that someone may genuinely need that pole to hold them up!!

How can I practice this more in my life? Not to give the (possibly correct?) impression that I have insights only the depth of a fortune cookie, but I saw another meme recently that said “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind always”. That about sums it up for me. Actually maybe it is ok to get these pearls of wisdom from memes and fortune cookies because maybe it is just that simple and we make life more complex than it needs to be.