Amidst the chaos at the shopping centres, grocery stores, Starbucks line-ups and the like, it becomes VERY apparent how few people truly celebrate the meaning of this season. Regardless of the faith one practices, it seems that reasonable human decency flies out the door when a wait time at the bank goes from what we remember being 2 minutes, to 10 minutes. For some, that coldness comes in form of flipping someone the middle finger, or angrily shouting at a person who made a mistake that holds you up a bit longer, or perhaps it comes in the form of aggressive body language even though no words may ever be spoken. But, perhaps this is a time that many of us should actively work on our compassion and openness to strangers around us, because these negative behaviours can poison our mental health.
Last weekend, I was waiting in line to pay for my small selection of groceries at Metro. Just a usual, mundane activity that many of us do weekly, or in my case daily (because I LOVE to grocery shop!). My mind at the time was not on Christmas. And while I do love wandering a grocery store for upwards of an hour, at that moment I just wanted to get on with my day, with as little inconvenience that this time of year naturally brings. An elderly woman was ahead of me in the line. She was in a motorized wheelchair, and had double the amount of groceries I did (probably about 3-4 bags worth). As time seemed to tick away slowly, I found myself becoming increasingly irritated and thoughts started to wander through my mind. “Why on earth does this woman keep insisting on dictating to the cashier what products go in what plastic bags. Why is she having such a detailed conversation about the Schneider’s ham she purchased, she knows how much it cost. Why is it taking her so long to count out the small coins she has to have the cashier convert to Loonies? Oh my goodness, I JUST WANT TO GET OUT OF THIS STORE and this stranger in a wheelchair is preventing me from doing so!!!” But, as quickly as those negative thoughts flowed into my head, a little voice piped up even louder that told me to stop, and breathe.
Such a simple notion, taking a moment, and taking a breath. After pausing for 2 breaths, I started to have different thoughts come into my mind, “I wonder how far this lady has to travel outside in the cold to get home on her wheelchair or if she has a ride waiting for her? Does she have children she can spend the holidays with? Maybe she has a dog that give her as much joy as my dog gives me.” and probably about half a dozen more questions that reminded me of the important things in my life.
There are so many little moments in life, that offer us all an opportunity to take a moment, breathe, and reconsider how we are feeling in that exact moment in time. But how many of us do? It’s all too easy to blame others on how we feel in situations, but the next time you’re waiting for your non-fat extra hot caramel macchiato to be made, take a moment, breathe, and see if you change your thoughts to something more positive.